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Protect Your Home Air Quality from Forest Fire Smoke: The Best Air Filters Recommendations by EPA

EPA's Recommendations on How to use Higher Rated Air Filters to Protect the indoor Air Quality in Your Home from Forest Fire Smoke

 With the increasing frequency of forest fires around the world, it has become essential for homeowners to protect their indoor air quality from the harmful effects of smoke. In times of such emergencies, it is important to rely on reliable information and expert recommendations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a trusted authority when it comes to environmental concerns, including air quality. In this blog, we will share information to help you choose the best  options of air filters for your home to help remove smoke from forest fires, as recommended by the EPA. 

Understanding the Dangers of Forest Fire Smoke: Forest fire smoke contains a mixture of gases and fine particles that can pose serious health risks, particularly to individuals with respiratory conditions, young children, and the elderly. The tiny particles, known as PM2.5, can penetrate deep into the lungs and lead to various health issues, including respiratory irritation, reduced lung function, and aggravation of existing cardiovascular conditions. Protecting your indoor air quality is crucial during these times to maintain a safe and healthy living environment. 

NOTE: While filtration methods can effectively help reduce smoke, the effectiveness will depend on many factors such as how much insulation is in a home or building. Older homes, for instance, tend to be less insulated and allow more outside air in the home for ventilation. If the air is saturated with smoke and a house is less insulated, a higher degree of filtration may be less effective.  

4 Ways the EPA recommends to Upgrade Your Homes Air Quality and Protect from Smoke

  1. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters: HEPA filters are renowned for their ability to capture 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. These filters are highly effective in removing smoke particles and other airborne pollutants. The EPA recommends using HEPA filters in portable air purifiers, central air systems, or stand-alone air cleaners. When purchasing a HEPA filter, ensure it is labeled as meeting the standards set by the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology.
  2. MERV 13 or Higher Rated Filters: MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is a rating system that indicates the efficiency of an air filter. The higher the MERV rating, the more effective the filter is at capturing smaller particles. The EPA suggests using filters with a MERV rating of 13 or higher to remove smoke particles effectively. These filters can be used in HVAC systems or air purifiers designed to work with them.
  3. Activated Carbon Filters: Activated carbon filters are excellent at trapping odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are often present in smoke. While they may not capture smoke particles as effectively as HEPA filters, their ability to adsorb chemical pollutants makes them a valuable addition. Activated carbon filters are commonly found in combination with HEPA filters, providing a two-fold defense against smoke and its associated odor.
  4. Proper Maintenance and Filter Replacement: Remember that even the best air filters lose their effectiveness over time. It is crucial to follow the manufacturer's instructions for filter replacement to ensure optimal performance. Regularly changing filters and maintaining your air purifier or HVAC system will maximize its efficiency in removing smoke particles from your home.

 How to Quickly Upgrade Air Quality 

Although there are high-end HVAC systems that provide outstanding residential filtration such Lennox Pureair and Carrier Germicidal Air Purifiers, for most situations the quickest and easiest way to supplement your existing HVAC air filtration with out needing an HVAC contractor to install a new system or device is to upgrade your existing air filters and add a HEPA room air purifiers. 

Step 1 is to Change your current filter to a MERV 13 or Higher Air filter. If you have a 1 inch filter, the best option is to probably change to a MERV 13 air filter.

See a list of 1 inch air filters by size

If you have a whole house air filter, you can usually find a compatible model that is in at least a MERV 13, but in some instances you can upgrade to a MERV 16 filter and potentially a MERV 16 filter that has carbon which can help reduce the smoke odor.

Here are some popular whole house filters that can be upgraded to MERV 16 Carbon Filters.

MERV 16 Replacement: Lennox X6672 MERV 16 16x25x5 inch 

16x25x5 Honeywell FC35A1001, FC100A1029, FC200E1029
16x25x5 Carrier/Bryant EXPXXFIL0016, EXPXXUNV0016, EXPXXLMC0016, FILCCCAR0016

MERV 16 Replacement: Lennox X6675 MERV 16 20x25x5

20x25x5 Honeywell FC35A1027, FC100A1037, FC200E1037
20x25x5 Carrier/Bryant EXPXXFIL0020, EXPXXUNV0020, EXPXXLMC0020

 Step 2 is to add a stand alone HEPA  room air purifier. Placing a properly sizes Room Air Purifier in bedroom and the living space can be an effective way of further reducing smoke particles in the air in your home.

How to Choose the Right Room Air Purifier

CADR, which stands for Clean Air Delivery Rate, is a metric used to measure the effectiveness of air purifiers in removing specific pollutants from the air. It provides a standardized way to compare the performance of different air purifiers and helps consumers make informed decisions when selecting a suitable model.

CADR is typically expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and indicates the volume of clean air that an air purifier can deliver based on its filtration efficiency. The three main types of pollutants for which CADR is measured are:

  1. Tobacco Smoke: CADR for tobacco smoke represents the air purifier's ability to remove small particles typically found in smoke, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This measurement is important for addressing indoor air pollution caused by smoke from cigarettes, wildfires, or other sources.

  2. Dust: CADR for dust signifies the air purifier's effectiveness in removing larger particles like household dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens. This measurement is relevant for individuals with allergies or asthma who seek to reduce airborne allergens in their homes.

  3. Pollen: CADR for pollen indicates how well an air purifier can capture pollen particles, which are a common allergen. This measurement is especially useful during pollen seasons to alleviate allergy symptoms and improve indoor air quality.

When comparing air purifiers based on CADR, it is essential to consider the size of the room or space in which the purifier will be used. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) suggests that consumers choose an air purifier with a CADR rating that is at least two-thirds of the room's area in square feet based on the type of pollutant.  For example, if you are trying to reduce smoke and have a 300 square foot room, a Smoke CADR rating of 200 or higher for would be appropriate.

It's important to note that CADR does not provide information about an air purifier's ability to remove other pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gases, or odors. These factors may require additional technologies like activated carbon filters or specific air purifier models designed for VOC removal.

In summary, CADR is a valuable metric that quantifies an air purifier's efficiency in removing tobacco smoke, dust, and pollen from the air. By considering the CADR ratings and matching them to the size of the room, consumers can make more informed decisions when selecting an air purifier that suits their specific needs.

 Conclusion: During forest fire emergencies, protecting your indoor air quality becomes paramount. Relying on authoritative sources like the EPA ensures you make informed decisions about the air filters you choose for your home. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, MERV 13 or higher rated filters, and activated carbon filters are among the best options to effectively remove smoke particles and improve indoor air quality. Remember to maintain and replace filters regularly for optimum performance.

By investing in reliable air filters and following the EPA's recommendations, you can create a safer and healthier environment for yourself and your family, even during challenging times of forest fires and their associated smoke.

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