Wildfires, though more common in the western United States, can affect air quality far beyond their immediate area, including places like Philadelphia. When smoke from distant wildfires affects your region, it can infiltrate your home and compromise indoor air quality. Here are some essential HVAC tips to help you keep your indoor air clean and safe during such events.

1. Keep Windows and Doors Sealed

First and foremost, keep all windows and doors closed to prevent smoke from entering your home. This simple step is crucial in keeping the majority of harmful particles outside.

2. Upgrade HVAC Filters

Replace standard HVAC filters with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters or those with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher. These filters are more effective at capturing fine particles found in smoke, such as ash and soot, thus improving indoor air quality.

3. Use Portable Air Purifiers

In addition to upgrading your HVAC system's filters, consider using portable air purifiers in the most commonly used areas of your home. Make sure these purifiers also utilize HEPA filters to maximize the removal of smoke particles.

4. Maintain Proper Ventilation

If your system has a fresh air intake, make sure to close it during heavy smoke conditions to prevent outdoor air from being drawn inside. Use recirculation settings on your HVAC system to avoid bringing in outdoor air and focus on filtering the indoor air you already have.

5. Regularly Check and Replace Filters

Smoke can cause filters to fill up and get dirty more quickly than usual. Check your HVAC and air purifier filters regularly during ongoing smoke events and replace them as needed to ensure optimal air quality and system performance.

6. Seal Leaks in Ductwork

Ensure that your HVAC ductwork is well-sealed. This prevents any smoke that might have infiltrated your attic or crawl spaces from being distributed throughout your house.

7. Consider Creating a Clean Room

In extreme situations, consider setting up a designated “clean room” — a space with fewer air leaks and equipped with an air purifier. This room can offer a refuge from poor air quality, particularly for those with respiratory conditions.

8. Stay Informed

Stay updated on air quality reports and wildfire status. This information can help you make informed decisions about how to manage your indoor air quality effectively.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you are unsure about how to upgrade your system to handle smoke or if your current HVAC system isn’t adequately maintaining indoor air quality, consider consulting a professional. Local experts like McCorry Comfort can assess your system and recommend the best solutions tailored to Philadelphia’s unique environmental conditions and your specific needs.

During wildfire season, taking these steps can significantly improve your comfort and health by ensuring your indoor air remains as clean and smoke-free as possible.