Using HVAC When Wildfires Pose a Risk in Your Area
Climate change has adversely affected every continent and the rising occurrence of droughts, fires, and floods are testimony to the damage the environment is facing. Increasingly dry climates has given rise to forest fires in the US. No one can predict what Mother Nature is going to do.
Ten thousand years ago the earth was in an ice age for example.
Dry areas draw water from the surroundings, especially from plants and trees, leaving them susceptible to fires. The continent has been witnessing almost four to five incidents of forest fires every month.
Your HVAC unit can largely help you stay safe in times of a fire advisory. Having an HVAC unit at home is quite advantageous as the filters in the system, keep the air in your house safe and breathable.
Initial steps to ensure personal safety
The safety of people is of utmost importance in times of emergency. If there is a wildfire in your area or region, there are certain things you need to follow, so that your family members are safe.
a) Stay updated
Be aware of the areas under risk. Listen to local news and radio channels and keep yourself updated with important information like direction of the fire, extent of damage, evacuation measures and other safety instructions passed by local authorities and disaster management teams.
b) Stay indoors
If you are not being asked to evacuate, it means that your house is not under direct threat from any fire. But the air quality of the region will go bad. In such circumstances, it is better to stay indoors and not inhale to smoke circulating outside. Also, keep doors and windows tightly shut, so as to minimize the entry of polluted air into your home.
c) Wear masks
If you have no choice but to go outside, make sure you are wearing protective gear and respiratory masks of good quality. If someone at home is having difficulty breathing indoor air, they can wear masks inside too.
Using the HVAC system to ensure breathable air indoors
Healthy adults can generally handle limited exposure to toxic air caused due to fires, but family members suffering from breathing problems or cardiovascular ailments like asthma, lung disease, arrhythmia or other health problems are more likely to be harmed by the polluted air.
If you are stuck indoors in case of fires, it is a good idea to utilize your HVAC system to filter indoor air for you.
a) Change air filters
Although air filters successfully filter pollutants and dust particles from the air, a new filter will be able to clean better and ensure that no tiny particulate matter enters your home. If your HVAC system has been fitted with additional air purifiers with HEPA filters, it is safer to breathe indoor air.
b) Turn on the AC but shut off fresh air intake
Outside air is generally considered fresher than indoor air but in times of fires, the air outside is highly toxic and serious fires can occur in the Bay Area or in surrounding areas. So, stop the entry of fresh air into your home using a damper.
c) Keep bathroom fans switched off
Any fans in the house that pull outside air into the home should be kept Off.