Does an Air Conditioner Filter Out Smoke from Wildfires?

Find out how an HVAC system or an AC unit can help filter out wildfire smoke from inside your home with sufficiently high grade filters and frequent replacements.

Does an Air Conditioner Filter Out Smoke from Wildfires?

It's important to familiarize yourself with your HVAC system or air conditioning system, if you have one, so that you can adjust it to prevent smoke from entering. If you have a central HVAC system, find out if it has a fresh air intake and how to shut it down or put the system in recirculation mode. Yes, air conditioners can filter wildfire smoke from inside your home, if you use sufficiently high grade filters and replace them frequently. Air conditioners use air filters to remove contaminants from the air circulating in the home.

The operation of the air conditioner circulates indoor air, removes heat, and also filters some particles from the air. If you want to make sure your air filtration works at peak efficiency, get the highest level of filters you can. HEPA filters trap very small particles. Change air filters frequently to keep them working at peak performance. Wildfire season is inevitable unless you plan to move.

As is the case every year, the effects can be devastating. Some homes and businesses burn to the ground, but perhaps most importantly, it can lead to unhealthy air conditions across the country. Local officials can advise people to stay indoors, but even if you do, some of the smoke from outside can get in and make your space unhealthy. With no apparent solution, the question arises: “Do air conditioners filter wildfire smoke?” The short answer to the question is yes. If the area you live in is prone to wildfires, you can prepare properly before the season starts. One of the routes you can take is to purchase a high-quality portable air filter or air conditioning filter.

If you choose to go for the latter, make sure the HVAC filter has a high Minimum Efficiency Report Value (MERV) rating, generally greater than ten. The higher the number, the better the filter for removing contaminants. Filters also range in thickness from one to five inches. Try to change the filter more often during wildfire season, as they can get dirty faster than usual. Whether you're looking to eliminate smoky air outside or cigarette smoke inside, you might wonder if your good air conditioner can do the job.

We all know that air conditioners have air filters to treat this type of dust and other particles, but the particles in cigarettes are so heavy that they can cover the entire filter with debris in a few days. If you have a portable air conditioner that needs to go out the window, you shouldn't use it during a fire or in smoky conditions. When this wildfire smoke enters your home, it can do so by opening windows and doors, poor insulation, and even through air conditioning units that bring outside air into the indoor air space. If portable air purifiers are not available or affordable, CARB suggests making a temporary air purifier for the interior of your home by using a box fan, a filter with a MERV rating of 13 or higher, and adhesive tape. Air conditioners have filters to remove dust and other particles from the environment so as not to damage the air conditioning system. Be sure to turn off any settings that allow outside air to enter the indoor air space and turn off any window air conditioning units that introduce contaminated outdoor air into the home. Selecting a wildfire smoke air filter in your air treatment system is an important decision when it comes to maximizing air purification inside your home.

You can purchase air filters for these systems from home improvement stores such as Home Depot and you should replace them frequently. Don't forget to talk to your local HVAC technician for advice on how to prepare your air conditioner to filter wildfire smoke. As the process continues, the air cleaner will cycle continuously and filter out bad elements and odors from a room. With a window air conditioner in place, you would need to determine its proximity to the outside air damper. In general, residential air conditioners circulate air from inside the home, rather than drawing in outside air.

There are fine particles in wildfires that cannot be filtered by small air conditioners installed in homes or offices.

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