Northern California has experienced several of the largest wildfires in state history in just the last few years. In fact, of the five largest wildfires in state history, four took place since 2017, and two are currently burning now:
- SCU Lightning Complex – 377,431 acres burned as of 8/31/2020
- LNU Lightning Complex – 375,209 acres burned as of 8/31/2020
With massive wildfires now an annual occurrence, Northern California homeowners are increasingly conscious of smoke in their homes.
Secure Seals on Windows and Doors
When there is thick smoke outside, be sure to close all windows and doors throughout the home. To ensure that there is a complete seal around all windows and doors, homeowners should thoroughly check for leaks.
Aside from visible gaps in the frames or caulking, using a candle or lighter is an effective method as well. Once all windows are shut, hold the flame near the edge or perimeter of the window or door. A flickering flame or smoke blowing away from the window are signs that air is coming through from the exterior.
Caulking material is typically a quick and easy way to fix a damaged seal. However, in the event that there are still issues with draft allowing smoke to come inside the home, contact a local window replacement professional for further assistance.
Run the Air Conditioner if Possible
Run the air conditioner and close all windows and doors to help keep the air fresh indoors. However, make sure the system is set to recycle indoor air and ensure that the filter is clean.
For those without air conditioning, monitor the local AQI (air quality index) and take advantage of periods when air is relatively clean to open windows and cool down indoor areas or freshen up stale air. Ideally, open up windows at night or early in the morning (if AQI permits). Then close windows and blinds to keep the air cool during the day for as long as possible.
Invest in a HEPA Air Filter
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District recommends purchasing a “non-ozone producing air purifier (HEPA). Good air filters reduce the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 particles that cause health issues over time.
According to Consumer Reports, a well-rated HEPA air filter will remove as much as 85% of air pollutants.
“The very best air purifiers fitted with HEPA filters can reduce particle concentrations by as much as 85 percent. If you want to get rid of the smell of smoke in addition to particles, you’ll want an air purifier that also has a carbon filter to adsorb odors.”
Wear an N95 Mask
In the event that wildfire smoke has entered the home and is causing issues, use an N95 mask or higher (N97 or N100). While not comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, wearing theses types of masks blocks 95 percent of particulate matter.
Nearly everyone owns cloth masks, bandanas, or other facial coverings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these alternatives to N95 masks are ineffective at blocking out harmful particulates from wildfire smoke.
With the increase in fire activity over the last several years, keeping wildfire smoke out of your home is more important than ever. Investing in better windows and doors, purchasing a high quality air filter, installing air conditioning, or keeping a reserve of N95 masks will ensure comfort the next time the region is shrouded in smoke.