Can Air Conditioners Keep Smoke Out?

Learn how an AC can help keep smoke out of your home or office.

Can Air Conditioners Keep Smoke Out?

Air conditioners are great for filtering particles such as ash, soot, and other debris from nearby fires, and for neutralizing harmful gases, chemicals, and odors that make up smoke. You may think that if you use your air conditioner during fire season, smoke and ash particles will move inside your home. However, air conditioners cannot purify smoke, including cigarette smoke. Cigarettes can degrade indoor air quality by spreading impurities such as arsenic, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide.

These gases can merge and create a thick layer that can clog filters, making them difficult to remove and reducing room air quality. You can use window air conditioners in case of heavy smoke, but you'll need to take some precautionary steps to keep smoky air out. Most of these devices have an outside air damper located near the top to keep out rain or snow. Closing the damper will also block the flow of outside air.

Check for possible leaks in the seal between the unit and the window. Air conditioners work by sucking in the surrounding air in your home, passing that air through coils that cool the air, and then blowing that air back to your home. The air conditioner will tend to absorb more smoke from polluted air and will affect your filter and, in the worst case, the air conditioning system. If you want to ensure that your air filtration works at peak efficiency, get the highest level of filters possible.

Air conditioners work to cool indoor air, while an air purifier filters indoor air to produce fresh, healthy air. You can resort to measures such as keeping windows and doors closed or buying portable air purifiers to improve indoor air quality. Ground-level ozone (which is a very important component of smog) and particles in the air will reduce air quality. By operating the air conditioner, indoor air is circulated, heat is removed, and some particles are also filtered out of the air.

Air conditioners cannot filter cigarette smoke and the smoke will affect the life of the air conditioner filter. Notable features of reverse-cycle air conditioners are humidification and excellent air filtration of different particles and dust. In this case, you should leave a window or door open during smoking so that fresh outside air can replace the indoor one. Taken together, an AC doesn't have to purify the air; it's only designed to cool indoor air in a room, car, or office.

We all know that the purpose of an AC is to cool indoor air and filtering smoke is not its thing. With its filters (the main HEPA filter, a pre-filter and an optional activated carbon layer), the air is expelled and returned as fresh, clean air.

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