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Working with wildfires

How the HVAC industry can become the hero of wildfire season

With unprecedented droughts and wildfire season already well underway in many states, it's never been more crucial to consider the impact of wildfire smoke on your customers' Indoor Air Quality at home. Let's take a look at how HVAC can help in wildfire season, the effects of wildfire smoke on IAQ, and the steps you can take to keep your customers safe in their homes until the smoke subsides...

2022 has seen more acres burned to date than any year on record.

Why is wildfire smoke dangerous to health?

Wood smoke can linger in the body for 40 times longer than tobacco smoke, increasing the risk of developing cancer or a respiratory illness¹. As wildfires and forest fires get worse each year, the long-term effects on human health will escalate over time. This becomes a double-whammy of prolonged exposure over each individual event, and repeated exposure over each year, combining to jeopardize the health of your customers and their families in the very place they should be safest. Those with asthma are particularly susceptible to the health risks of inhaling Particulate Matter (PM) such as fire smoke — and given that 13% of Americans suffer from asthma² the chances are that some of your customers fall into this vulnerable category.

Air pollution from wildfires have a 10x greater impact on health than similar pollution levels from other sources.

How HVAC can help in wildfire season

The majority of wildfire smoke exposure occurs while we are inside, despite the visible effects often remaining outside the home. Leaky home syndrome and negative air pressure can contribute to smoke infiltration into a home, which is why we believe that HVAC pros are best placed to assess and advise on IAQ issues for their customers (we'd like to see a counter-top monitor factor in a building envelope!). Once inside, smoke particles linger longer and settle into soft furnishings, carpeting and rugs, posing a fresh risk each time these surfaces are disturbed by everyday activities or vacuuming without a HEPA filter — meaning that all those health risks we just covered don't disappear when the smoke clears.

Installing a high MERV filter (13 or above) is the simplest step to ensure that smoke particles are captured — but without airflow, even the best filter is ineffective. Here's where HAVEN comes in...

How can HAVEN help with managing wildfire smoke?

  1. Our duct-mounted Central Air Monitor tracks Particulate Matter levels across the entire home: whereas your average counter-top monitor would only alert spikes within its immediate environment, the HAVEN Monitor will pick up on the presence of wildfire smoke whether it's from one broken window seal or a wider building envelope issue.
  2. The NEW Central Air Controller adds smart capability to existing equipment: we recommend wiring it to the air handler, and setting the automations to toggle the blower fan when high Particle levels are detected. This ensures that airflow is activated when needed, so the filter can effectively capture harmful smoke particles.
  3. The HAVEN Pro Web Portal logs and displays crucial customer IAQ data to help you identify spikes or trends over time, giving you the evidence you need to back up further equipment solutions like a media air filter to ensure your customer's home isn't compromising their health through the smoky season.

Since many mechanical ventilation solutions rely on intake of outdoor air, it's also crucial that this equipment is deactivated during fire smoke events in order to minimize the risk of PM being drawn into the building. With IFTTT integration, HAVEN can also automate these shut-downs in response to PM spikes! Click here to learn more about our IFTTT integrations.

Find out more about how HAVEN can help level-up your IAQ strategy and protect your customers' health:

How to keep your home wildfire smoke free

Make sure your home is a safe HAVENthis wildfire season

Wildfire occurrences are expected to increase 25% by 2030

As much of North America faces its worst droughts in recent history and memories of 2020 wildfires still rage in the minds of those affected, people are increasingly considering the risks of wildfire smoke on their health and their homes. But what steps can be taken? How can you make sure your family isn't breathing smoky, polluted air inside the home? Can you remove wildfire smoke from home? Or better yet - stop it getting in in the first place? Let's dive in...

What are the health risks of wildfire smoke?

Studies have shown that wood smoke can remain active in the body for 40 times longer than tobacco smoke, increasing the chances of developing cancer or a respiratory condition¹. As wildfires and forest fires continue to get worse year on year, the long-term health effects will escalate over time: creating a double-whammy of prolonged exposure over each individual event, and repeated exposure over each year.

Those with asthma are particularly susceptible to the health risks of inhaling Particulate Matter (PM) from sources such as fire smoke - and an estimated 13% of Americans suffer from asthma². Research suggests that long-term exposure to indoor air pollution can even cause asthma (more on that here). It's clearer than ever that we need to take Indoor Air Quality seriously for the health of ourselves and our loved ones - whether or not there is an existing health concern at play.

Can wildfire smoke affect me at home?

Though the air in your home may not become visibly smoky, if the levels outside are concentrated and air quality warnings are in place, the chances are that wildfire smoke particles have made it inside. There are many factors which affect this - from the obvious, such as doors and windows being left open or damaged sealant allowing for infiltration, to the obscure (such as the tightness of your home's construction or negative air pressure inside causing polluted air to be drawn in).

Setting your HVAC system to 'recirculate' and turning off outdoor-venting fans is a good start - but for more thorough tips, check out our infiltration checklist. Once smoke particles have made it into the home, they can remain over time in soft furnishings and carpeting, causing further risk to your family's health each time these surfaces are disturbed and the particles become airborne once more. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and mopping can help to reduce the risk - but ideally, we don't want these unwanted guests in your home in the first place. So what else can be done?

When outdoor pollutant levels are high, ventilating the indoors with outdoor air can make your pollution worse.

How can I avoid wildfire smoke getting into my home?

In addition to staying informed with the Air Quality Index and following official guidance during fire smoke events, we recommend taking steps to monitor the levels of indoor air pollution so that you and your family aren't blindsided by invisible smoke particles in your home. Counter-top monitors have their place - but if the source of infiltration is from a particular room where a monitor isn't present, the chances are this will go undetected. Many go in search of the best home air purifier for wildfire smoke, but the effectiveness of certain models under real-world conditions and health concerns relating to side effects³ are added worries that no-one needs during wildfire season. For a cost-effective short-term solution, try our DIY tutorial to create a box-fan air purifier.

A professionally installed monitor mounted in the return duct of your home's HVAC system has the ability to assess airborne pollutants across the whole home - giving you peace of mind that they're not slipping under the radar, and giving your HVAC professional the insights they need to assess whether further filtration or ventilation is needed to keep you and your loved ones safe. An effective furnace filter for wildfire smoke is also a must, and keep in mind that your filter’s lifespan will be much shorter during smoky season.

Find out more about making your home a safe HAVEN, and filter replacement alerts:

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