Improve Indoor Air Quality During Wildfire Season

Wildfire and air quality issues in the Pacific Northwest

Wildfires plague the Pacific Northwest, particularly during the hot, dry summers. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1.3 million acres of land were directly affected by wildfires in 2018.

Besides the physical damage they directly cause to the affected areas, wildfires can negatively affect air quality in communities miles away.

“Wildfires also emit substantial amounts of volatile and semi-volatile organic materials and nitrogen oxides that form ozone and organic particulate matter,” stated a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, a division of the US Department of Commerce Department. “Direct emissions of toxic pollutants can affect first responders and local residents. In addition, the formation of other pollutants as the air is transported can lead to harmful exposures for populations in regions far away from the wildfires.”

How to Prepare

If you are a homeowner in Washington, you may be affected by Pacific Northwest wildfires this summer. Be proactive and talk with one of our Foss Heating & Cooling team members here in Mount Vernon about managing your indoor air quality (IAQ).

Consider installing both a passive and active air filtration system. This two-part system is akin to setting mouse traps as well as owning a cat: one responds to a mouse while the other finds the mouse.

Passive air filtration is a system that takes surrounding air through a system of filters to remove certain particles and circulate cleaner air. Active air filtration uses ionized air as a complementary purification process.

Indoor Air Quality Issues

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the quality of indoor air may be three times lower inside than outside. Since most people stay inside nearly all the time, this can be a serious issue. Here is a list of common indoor air pollutants:

• Dust and dust mites
• Bacteria and viruses
• Mold and mildew
• Pet hair and dander
• Volatile organic compounds (VOC) from carpets, construction materials, cleaning solutions
• Radon
• Smoke and carbon monoxide

Each of these pollutants, or a combination of several, can often cause discomfort, illness, or long-term health problems. In addition, residual air pollution and smoke from wildfires can add more pollutants to that list.

Types of Indoor Air Purifiers

Several different types of air purification systems exist on the market today. Here is a primer on the most common ones:

• Filters. Many different kinds of filters are available. They can be made from fiberglass, cotton, foam or another material that can catch particles as they move through the material. Typically, there is a spot in your heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system that is designed to hold a filter, which should be changed regularly.

Filters have a MERV rating; the higher the rating, the more filtration. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters will trap the greatest number of particles, including minute ones, but you must have a system that can use HEPA filters.

• Ozone and ionizer generators. These systems create a charged ozone or ion molecule, which essentially floats around the air collecting particles. This process helps these molecules to adhere to the floor or surfaces to be vacuumed or dusted up more easily. Ozone, however, can be irritating to some individuals.

• Electrostatic filters. These systems actually charge the particles in the air and collect them through a machine. Trapped particles can then be washed off system plates, which can then be reused.

• Ultraviolet (UV). UV lights can tackle microbes, germs, mold, and some viruses. Typically, these can be installed over the HVAC coil as well as near the air handler.

• Activated carbon filters. These filters are a secondary stage to air purification. The advantage is that carbon filters can trap gasses and odors, and some high-powered ones can trap volatile organic compounds as well.

We Are Your Indoor Air Quality Specialists

Contact our trained and knowledgeable team at Foss Heating & Cooling in Mount Vernon, WA, for more information about air purification systems. Give us a call at 360-336-1517 or request service online today.