PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) - Even if you don't live close enough to the Sears wildfire to see flames, smoke and ash could be affecting the air quality inside your home.
Particles from wildfires are microscopic, can travel long distances, and may cause health issues like burning eyes, runny nose, and bronchitis, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA says small particles from fires get into houses through open windows and doors, cracks around windows and doors, and bathroom and kitchen fans that vent to the outdoors.
"These particles are so small that regular filtration doesn’t necessarily stop it," said Dale Steele of Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing. "Even though it’s really beautiful at night in the 70s and 80s at night, and everybody is tempted to open their windows and patio doors, just don’t want to do that right now because all those particles and the dirty air will just come right in the house."
If your HVAC system has a fresh air intake, the EPA also recommends setting it to recirculate mode or closing the outdoor intake damper.
"A lot of our homes have the fresh air intakes and what that does is it pulls a certain amount of fresh air into the house so that you can dilute the stale inside air and get some fresh air in there," Steele said. "Well, right now, if those fresh air intakes are open they’re pulling in the dirty, smoky ashy air."
You should also regularly change your air filters, and during a wildfire, avoid activities that create extra fine particles indoors, including smoking cigarettes, spraying aerosol products, frying or broiling food, burning candles or incense, and vacuuming, unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter.
"When you see that the smoke has cleared, you can actually see that it’s cleared and there’s no ash floating around the air, open the windows, run your system for an hour straight," Steele said. "That way it’s just pulling all the air and circulating all the air. It gives it enough time to basically get the entire house recirculated through your unit."
If you choose to use a portable air cleaner, check out the EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home.