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After the Wildfire: Restoring Indoor Air Quality with HVAC Cleaning

Posted on August 28, 2021
by Vinay Panday

The number of wildfires burning annually in the country has continued to rise over the recent years. In August of 2021, the National Interagency Fire Center reported 40,945 wildfires had burned so far, destroying over 4.4 million acres. Many communities have had to evacuate to keep their residents safe. The losses of lives, homes, and livelihoods are devastating.

The damage goes beyond the flames. Homes and businesses near the fires also suffer soot and smoke damage. The harmful toxins penetrate these buildings and require professional smoke remediation experts to clean entire structures, including the HVAC systems.

Dangers of Soot and Ash
According to the United States Forest Service, wildfire smoke is made up of dangerous gases and toxic particles that can be harmful when breathed in. These toxins include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and very small, burned particles. Other toxins that can be found in wildfire smoke include irritant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). These can all cause serious damage to lungs and overall health.

The people who are most at risk are those who are very young or elderly, pregnant women, and people who have diabetes, emphysema, heart disease and lung disease. If smoke damage is not properly mitigated in a home or commercial building, those who live or work in the structure are at risk of developing breathing issues and aggravating existing health issues.

Negative health effects due to wildfire smoke include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, excessive phlegm, and difficulty breathing. Those with pre-existing health conditions may need to consult with a health care professional if they live close to an active wildfire.

Since smoke, soot, and ash are so dangerous, it is important that any property owner hires professional and experienced HVAC cleaning technicians to clean the systems after a wildfire. Professional companies use the right tools and protection to keep themselves and those who live or work in the building safe.

Cleaning After a Wildfire
Even if a structure has not been damaged by flames, many homes and commercial buildings suffer from extensive smoke damage if they are located in close proximity to a wildfire. The air in these communities becomes thick with dangerous smoke particles which settle on every surface available. Once the visible damage, like soot and ash, has been cleared away it is time to pay close attention to the air quality within the structures.

Soot, ash, and smoke do not just affect the surfaces within a building, but they also penetrate the HVAC system and can cause longer lasting problems. A thorough HVAC cleaning must be performed in order improve the indoor air quality after a fire. If the HVAC system is neglected, the soot, smoke, and ash that has collected within the system will move throughout the building and cause further damage. The particles and debris can also cause damage to the HVAC system itself, which may result in costly repairs.

Wildfire smoke is not just dangerous near the flames, but the smoke can travel and cause indoor air quality issues in structures not threatened by the fire itself. If this is the case, fire remediation experts may be required to return the indoor air quality back to a healthy level.

Effective HVAC Cleaning
In order to ensure that the air quality is properly restored back to pre-wildfire levels, it is important that an HVAC cleaning company with experience in smoke remediation thoroughly cleans the entire ventilation system.

The processes may differ, but generally professional air duct cleaning companies will focus on the following:

  • Thorough cleaning of all vents
    Soot and ash can settle within the ventilation system. When the system is turned back on after a wildfire in the area, these contaminants are spread throughout the building causing damage and lowering air quality.
  • Inspection and cleaning of all HVAC equipment
    Soot and ash can also infiltrate the inner workings of an HVAC system and cause costly damage to the sensitive components. These units should be carefully inspected by HVAC professionals who have experience with post-wildfire cleanup. They can carefully remove any settled soot or debris from the system in order to avoid future damage.
  • Replace or upgrade filters as needed
    After a wildfire, HVAC filters often need to be replaced. If a system does not already use HEPA filters, it is a good idea to upgrade the system for better filtration.

HEPA Filters
Both commercial and residential structures should have high-quality HEPA filters in their HVAC systems. HEPA filters are important because they can remove up to 99.9% of airborne contaminants, effectively cleaning the air within a building.

Newer commercial HVAC systems are usually capable of using HEPA filters, while older systems may need to be upgraded in order to accommodate these state-of-the-art air filters. In a residential environment, central furnace or HVAC HEPA filters are also available. Make sure the ventilation system has been thoroughly cleaned before installing new filters.

Effective HVAC Cleaning Professionals
While there are many companies that offer duct cleaning, not all professional HVAC cleaning companies are experienced with soot, ash, and smoke removal. Smoke remediation experts have the cutting-edge technology that is required to effectively remove all traces of wildfire particles from the HVAC system. It is important to work with a company that has experience with commercial, and residential buildings and with post-wildfire HVAC cleaning.

Air-Tek Offers Effective Solutions
Air-Tek, part of the Alliance Environmental Group, is an indoor air solutions company that has extensive experience in wildfire cleanup. They are committed to restoring their customer’s air quality back to pre-fire safety levels. Air-Tek uses the latest tools and techniques to make sure that soot, ash, and smoke are thoroughly removed from the HVAC system. Their team of highly trained professional technicians has years of experience with all types of HVAC systems.

Air-Tek employs highly qualified and experienced technicians who are certified by state and local authorities. They understand the importance of providing safe, clean air quality at each and every job.

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