Air Quality Alert: Smoke from Wildfires

We may be in for Another Smoky Summer

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Wildfires season is upon us again and they make air quality extremely poor over large areas downwind because they release a lot of smoke and harmful chemicals into the air.

The fires produce fine particles, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants that can travel for hundreds of miles. These tiny particles are especially dangerous because they can get deep into the lungs, causing breathing problems and worsening conditions like asthma.

The smoke also makes it hard to see, creating dangerous driving conditions and lowering the overall air quality in large regions.

In this issue we will look at a few things you can do when air quality get really bad.

Home Improvement:

The Benefits of Adding Air Conditioning to Your Home

Installing air conditioning (AC) in your home offers numerous advantages, enhancing both comfort and health. Here are some key benefits:

Improved Comfort

Air conditioning provides a cool and comfortable indoor environment, especially during hot summer months. This not only makes living spaces more enjoyable but also improves sleep quality and overall well-being.

Enhanced Air Quality

Most air conditioning systems use your existing air ducts and filter. You can use a higher quality filter that will remove dust, pollen, and other allergens from the air. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with allergies or respiratory issues, as it helps maintain a cleaner and healthier indoor atmosphere.

Increased Home Value

Homes equipped with air conditioning are generally more attractive to potential buyers, which can increase the property’s market value. This makes AC installation a smart investment for homeowners looking to sell in the future.

Energy Efficiency

Many contemporary air conditioning units are designed to be energy-efficient, which can help reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills. Energy-efficient models use less power while providing effective cooling, making them an environmentally friendly option.

Air Conditioning During Wildfires

Air conditioning becomes even more valuable when the air quality outside is poor due to wildfires. Wildfires release smoke and fine particulate matter that can travel long distances, contaminating the air over wide areas. Here’s how air conditioning can help during such events:

Indoor Air Quality

AC systems with high-quality filters can significantly improve indoor air quality by trapping harmful particles, such as smoke and ash, that enter the home. This is crucial during wildfire events, as it helps protect residents from the adverse health effects of breathing polluted air.

Safe Haven

With an air-conditioned home, you can create a safe haven during times of poor outdoor air quality. This allows you to stay indoors comfortably without compromising your health, reducing the risk of respiratory problems and other health issues associated with wildfire smoke.

Reduced Exposure

Using air conditioning also reduces the need to open windows and doors for ventilation, thereby limiting the amount of polluted air that enters the home. This is especially important for households with vulnerable individuals, such as children, the elderly, and those with preexisting health conditions.

In conclusion, adding air conditioning to your home offers many benefits, from increased comfort and improved air quality to enhanced property value and energy efficiency. During wildfire events, a good AC system becomes an essential tool for maintaining a safe and healthy indoor environment, protecting you and your family from the dangers of poor outdoor air quality.

DIY Projects:

DIY Indoor Air Quality Testing for Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke can severely impact indoor air quality, even if the fires are miles away. The smoke contains harmful particles and gases that can penetrate homes, posing health risks. Here's how you can test and improve your indoor air quality when wildfire smoke is a concern.

Why Test for Wildfire Smoke?

Wildfire smoke contains fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide, and other hazardous pollutants that can cause respiratory issues, eye irritation, and exacerbate chronic conditions like asthma and heart disease. Monitoring indoor air quality helps you take immediate steps to protect your health.

Tools for DIY Air Quality Testing

  1. Air Quality Monitors: Devices like the PurpleAir, Awair Element, or Laser Egg provide real-time readings of PM2.5 levels, which are crucial for detecting smoke particles. Some monitors also measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants.

  2. Particulate Matter Sensors: Affordable and easy to use, these sensors specifically measure the concentration of fine particles in the air. Models like the Temtop M10 or Dylos DC1100 are popular choices.

  3. Carbon Monoxide Detectors: While not directly measuring smoke, these detectors can alert you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide that can accompany wildfire smoke.

Steps to Test Indoor Air Quality

  1. Select Appropriate Tools: Choose devices that measure PM2.5 and, if possible, VOCs, as these are the main pollutants from wildfire smoke.

  2. Strategic Placement: Place the monitors in areas where you spend the most time, such as the living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Avoid placing them near open windows or vents to ensure accurate readings.

  3. Follow Instructions: Set up your devices according to the manufacturer's guidelines to ensure accurate results.

  4. Continuous Monitoring: Wildfire smoke levels can fluctuate throughout the day. Continuous monitoring will provide the most accurate picture of your indoor air quality.

  5. Record Data: Keep a log of the readings to identify trends and determine if certain activities or times of day correlate with higher pollution levels.

Responding to Poor Air Quality

  1. Use Air Purifiers: Invest in a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air purifier to remove fine particles from the air. Make sure it is appropriately sized for the room.

  2. Seal Your Home: Close windows and doors, and use weather stripping to seal gaps. Avoid using exhaust fans that can draw in outdoor air.

  3. Create a Clean Room: Designate one room in your home with an air purifier and keep it closed off from the rest of the house as a safe space during periods of heavy smoke.

  4. Limit Indoor Pollutants: Avoid activities that can worsen indoor air quality, such as smoking, burning candles, or using gas stoves without ventilation.

  5. Regular Maintenance: Replace air purifier filters as recommended, and clean surfaces to reduce dust and particulate matter accumulation.

By taking these steps, you can effectively monitor and improve your indoor air quality during wildfire events, ensuring a safer and healthier environment for you and your family. Regular testing and being proactive can significantly reduce the impact of wildfire smoke on your indoor air quality.

Home Maintenance and Repairs:

HVAC Filter Change

During wildfire season its important to change your furnace filter regularly if your running your AC or just running the fan to circulate the air in your home.

You can also use a higher quality filter to help filter out dangerous smoke particles that get into your home.

Changing your furnace filter is easy and helps keep your home's air clean and your furnace working well.

  1. First, find the filter compartment, usually near the air intake or blower.

  2. Turn off the furnace for safety.

  3. Slide out the old filter and check its size and type so you can buy the right replacement.

  4. Put the new filter in, making sure the arrows on the frame point in the direction of the airflow.

  5. Turn the furnace back on and throw away the old filter.

It's a good idea to change your furnace filter every 1 to 3 months to keep your air clean and your furnace running smoothly.

This link is to the #M site and shows the different filter qualities.

Service outside AC Condenser Unit

Servicing your outside AC condenser unit is crucial for keeping your air conditioning system running smoothly.

Regular maintenance involves removing debris such as leaves, dirt, and grass clippings from the unit's exterior.

A basic rinse with water is sufficient to remove grass, sticks, and other fuzzy plant debris such as dandelion heads and cottonwood fluff that gather on your coil. All you require to clean the condenser coils is a garden hose equipped with an adjustable nozzle.

Take a little time to inspect the unit for any signs of damage or wear, such as bent fins or leaks, and address them promptly.

Home Technology & Gadgets:

Portable AC

Portable air conditioning units have improved a lot recently, making them a much better choice for cooling than they used to be.

Older models were big, noisy, and not very good at cooling. But now, newer portable AC units are sleeker, quieter, and more energy efficient.

They can cool larger spaces effectively, thanks to better technology in compressors and refrigerant systems. Plus, many models come with different fan speeds and thermostat settings and WiFi so you can adjust the cooling to your liking.

They're also quieter than before, with improved sound insulation and quieter fan motors. This makes them suitable for use in bedrooms and other quiet spaces.

And modern portable AC units are more energy efficient, helping you save money on electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint. They often have features like programmable timers and energy-saving modes to help you use them more efficiently.

These units also have a better design, with sleek profiles and stylish finishes that fit well into any room. They're also easier to move around, with built-in handles and caster wheels.

Overall, these improvements make modern portable AC units a great option for keeping your home cool and comfortable during hot weather.

That’s it for this week.

If you have questions, suggestions, or feedback, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to help you navigate the path to becoming a knowledgeable and confident homeowner.

Thank you,

Ron Henderson, CMI
The Handy Homeowner Newsletter

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