How to Use Your HVAC During a Wildfire Advisory

During wildfire season, fire advisories may be issued in your area. A wildfire can pose serious hazards even if you’re not in the immediate vicinity of the blaze. Harmful particulates, chemicals, and gases can spread for hundreds of miles. Ash and dust, some too small to be seen with the naked eye, can get inside through natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation systems, and any small cracks or openings around windows and doors. Fortunately, with your air conditioner, fire hazards like these can be mitigated, especially when it comes to indoor air quality.

Using Your AC to Protect Against Wildfire Hazards

During a wildfire advisory, stay inside if you know there are hazardous conditions and/or local authorities advise you to stay indoors and keep all windows and doors closed. If you go out, wear protective gear like N95 or P100 respirator masks.

How to Run your Air Conditioner During a Fire

You can also adjust your HVAC system or air conditioner so smoke doesn’t get into your home. Here is how you can do so:

  • Find the fresh air intake of your central HVAC system (if it has one), and close it. Set the system to recirculate air instead of pulling it in from outside.
  • If an evaporative cooler is used, turn it off when conditions outside are smoky. The unit can draw smoke into your home.
  • For window ACs, close the outdoor air damper; if this isn’t possible, use a fan instead of the air conditioner. And verify there’s a tight seal between the window and AC unit.
  • During smoky conditions, don’t use portable air conditioners vented out a window with a single hose. A unit with two hoses can be used if the window vent kit is properly sealed.
  • If a fire advisory is issued in your area, turn off bathroom fans as well as window box fans if you use them, as they pull outside air in.

The Importance of Maintaining Your Filter

Your HVAC air filter is your greatest defense against pollution from wildfires. Make sure each filter is clean and fresh. Investing in higher quality filters is also a good idea. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rated filters are ranked on a scale from 1 to 16. For the best wildfire protection, a MERV 11 to 15 filter should be used.

Changing an AC filter is generally simple. It’s usually near the main vent or inside the access door to your HVAC equipment. When it’s time to change the filter, turn off the system and follow the directions for removing/discarding the old filter and inserting the new one.

Keep Your AC On

During a fire advisory, cooling systems can be run continuously if you have fresh filters and closed the intake vent. Keep the system on so it works at peak efficiency. That is, unless you need to shut the AC down in an emergency.

Perform HVAC Maintenance After a Wildfire

Wildfires create conditions that cause HVAC systems to work harder. That’s why it’s important, after a fire advisory, to:

  • Change the Filter: Any type of air filter will get clogged in fire and smoke conditions, increasing the amount of energy used by your HVAC system. Motors can burn out if the filter is too clogged. Consider adding a charcoal-infused carbon filter; it works alongside a standard air filter by filtering out fumes that may be present.
  • Get Your HVAC System Inspected: An HVAC technician should look at the system, as they know the types of damage to look for, such as corroded condenser coils, clogged vents, or problems with outdoor units. Professional service can prepare your HVAC for the next fire season.
  • Clean Your Ductwork: Soot and dust from wildfire smoke can build up in HVAC ducts and then circulate in your home. Duct cleaning should therefore be scheduled as soon as possible after a fire advisory. Service professionals have the tools and equipment to thoroughly clean ducts, vents, and intakes to keep your indoor air clean.

Contact Black Hills Inc. Home Services

Schedule home air duct cleaning if a wildfire or smoke has affected your area. Our certified technicians specialize in air duct cleaning services near Olympia and can inspect/maintain your HVAC system after a fire advisory. To request service, contact us online or call 888-978-2917 today.