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  • Writer's pictureMeghan Prisuta

Wildfires Cause Poor Indoor Air Quality 2,000+ Miles Away

Over 120 wildfires across 13 states have been ravaging the Western United States for weeks. The widespread fires, brought on by heatwaves and heavy winds, have devastated wildlife and prompted thousands of evacuations. But the problems don’t stop there. Over 2,000 miles away, in East Coast cities like New York and Philadelphia, smoke particles from the wildfires are creating hazy skies and unhealthy air quality.

Smoke - the dark gray blob seen above the Great Lakes and Northern Plans on Monday.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wildfire smoke, even when the fires are far away, can pose a multitude of health issues, both outdoors and indoors. Smoke is made up of a complex mix of gases and fine particles and the biggest health threat is the latter. Fine particles are produced when wood and other organic materials burn. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory systems, causing health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose and bronchitis. They can also aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases – and are even linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.

While preparing for fire season isn’t a typical chore for those of us on the East Coast, the fierce fires in the West are now posing an immediate threat to our health and comfort. This comes in the form of poor air quality, both indoors and out. The EPA recommends the following three tactics to mitigate the risk of smoke particles entering your home or building and affecting your health:

  • Source Control: A tight building envelope is a critical step to reducing the risk of wildfire smoke entering any home or building. A building envelope is the physical barrier (like outer walls, windows and doors) that separates the inside conditioned areas of a home or building to the outside unconditioned elements. Ensuring windows and doors are properly sealed and there are no cracks or crevices where outside air can leak in through walls can reduce occupant exposure to outdoor air contaminants like smoke. Keep in mind that source control is just that – control – as completely eliminating exposure to outdoor air is impossible.

  • Ventilation: Proper ventilation is another key component of a healthy building. Whole building mechanical ventilation systems provide a measured amount of fresh air for the occupants. During extreme events, homeowners and/or building managers may need to take additional measures to help control when outdoor air comes into the conditioned space. During wildfire events, like those we’ve seen over the last several weeks, the occupant can temporarily turn off their mechanical ventilation system to reduce the amount of wildfire smoke entering the home. Then, once the wildfire smoke event has ended, occupants/managers can resume normal ventilation to help dilute indoor air contaminants.

  • Filtration and Air Cleaning: Perhaps the most proactive measure towards improving indoor air quality is filtration and air cleaning. This comes in the form of two general technologies HVAC Filters and Air Cleaners. A combination of the two is typically the most effective way to filter and clean the air of harmful smoke particulate. HVAC filters using a rating system referred to as MERV. MERV is an acronym for "Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value". The MERV rating on an air filter describes its efficiency as a means of reducing the level of 0.3 to 10 micron-sized particles in air which passes through the filter. Higher "MERV" means higher filter efficiency. When choosing an HVAC filter, choose one with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 rating, or as high a rating as your system fan and filter slot can accommodate.

Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) Air Cleaners take clean indoor air to another level. NPBI air cleaners generate positively and negatively charged ions. When these ions disperse throughout a space, such as a home, an office or a schoolroom, they combine with smoke and other particles suspended in the air. This creates a snowball effect in which particles of opposite polarities begin to cluster together, making them easier to capture in filtration systems. See it in action on smoke here:

In addition to effectively reducing indoor smoke pollution, the NPBI air cleaners we use:

  • Remove odors

  • Deactivate pathogens

  • Reduce certain bacteria

  • Are UL2998 certified to ensure no harmful levels of ozone are produced (as recommended by the EPA)

Using NPBI technology, our Awesome Air Cleaning Systems are maintenance and hassle free - designed for your entire home or building with the following benefits:

  • Whole Building Coverage

  • No Ozone

  • Customized Plans

  • Maintenance Free

  • Seamless Operation

  • Hidden Equipment

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