Using a Home Air Filter for Forest Fire Smoke
An indoor air filter can be a real help when forest fire smoke is in the air. You don’t have to be close to the fire to smell the smoke and feel the effects of the particulates. We realized this one time when smoke from a fire in New Mexico at least 200 miles away from our Colorado home filled our area, and our lungs, for several days. I was so stuffed up that I thought I would have to take a road trip somewhere far away. But we got an air filter for the house and I was okay.
Another morning we woke up to a view of hazy mountains, due to another distant forest fire. Actually, I knew there had to be smoke before I even opened my puffy eyes and tried to take a deep breath through my stuffed up nose! There had to be air particles gumming up the works.
So right away we turned on our portable air filter. We keep it in our living room, on top of the large dog crate that is tucked into a corner. It’s a bit further away from the wall than it looks here. An amber light is on in the upper right. Sign of the filter cleaning the air from the forest fire? No, I must admit it’s been green lights all morning except when I had the propane stovetop on, which is when I took that picture! And so it was interesting to read at the CDC site that gas stoves can contribute to air pollution indoors… see the quote further down.
So how do you chose an air filter to help with your indoor air quality? Here are a couple of others that are well regarded and top sellers on Amazon…the GermGuardian AC4825 3-in-1 Air Cleaning System with True HEPA Filter and Levoit Air Purifier Filtration with True HEPA Filter. If you need it fast, be sure it’s in stock and if it isn’t, choose another good one.
Forest fire or not, it’s a good idea to have one if you have allergies to air particulates, as I do. The EPA says, “Indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks.” I noticed that HEPA filters are recommended for fire air pollution, and the EPA article further explains that mechanical air filters remove particles by capturing them on filter materials. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are in this category.
When we bought our air filter, we did get a HEPA unit. We chose to get one that could be moved around our small house if needed, rather than getting a whole-house system. Our house is about 1200 square feet, and the 22-pound Winix PlasmaWave 5300 Air Cleaner Model (Amazon link; that’s where we got ours) has done well. Its specs say it can clean up to 350 square feet, which is not quite the size of our large area consisting of kitchen, dining alcove, and living room, with my office carved out of the living room too. We thought that we could take it into the bedroom at night if need be, but we haven’t done that so far.
For futher exploration, here is a link to a search I did for HEPA air on Amazon. I did it that way because I could see that people search both for air filters and air purifiers, and this catches both. There are surprisingly low cost ones as well and more comprehensive ones.
The Center for Disease Control has a page of tips relating to forest fire smoke. Here’s a pertinent bit:
Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected area.
Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air…
Follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating the area if you are having trouble breathing. Call for further advice if your symptoms worsen.
Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke
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Now I am more confident that with smoke from distant forest fires a fact of life in the dry American west, I will most likely be fine at home with the air filter running, and that is a relief.
Here’s a newer version of the one we have:
And here’s an image for Pinterest, if you are into that…