Indoor air quality can suffer dramatically during a wildfire. It is very important to take the proper steps to restore healthy indoor air quality within any building.
Over the past few years, every corner of this country has been affected by devastating wildfires. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, between January and September of this year, 45,518 wildfires burned over 5.7 million acres of land. In 2020, over 7 million acres were burned by almost 44,000 fires. The negative effects of wildfires are numerous and far-reaching.
In order to minimize the effects that smoke, soot, and ash have on indoor air quality, it is important for property owners to hire experienced professionals to clean and maintain HVAC systems.
Dangers of Smoke, Soot, and Ash
When wildfires burn, dangerous toxins pollute the area in the form of smoke, soot, and ash. If a property is fairly close to a wildfire, soot and ash may coat everything in the surrounding area. Smoke can usually be smelled everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. Smoke also travels much farther than soot and ash. People who do not live close to an active wildfire may still experience smoke pollution many miles away.
Most people have experienced the uncontrolled coughing that comes with breathing in smoke particles, but some people are more at risk of developing serious health problems from prolonged exposure. Individuals who are most at risk are those with lung disease, heart disease, COPD, and asthma. Children, pregnant women, and senior citizens are also at a higher risk.
The problem comes from the tiny particles, liquid droplets, and dangerous gases that exist in smoke. These unhealthy particles are mixed in the air and easily inhaled. The American Lung Association reports that these particles are small enough to become lodged in the lungs. This can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even strokes in at-risk populations.
Wildfires and Indoor Air Quality
The hazards associated with smoke inhalation do not just occur outside. Indoor air quality is often impacted greatly when there is a wildfire nearby. Smoke, soot, and ash can infiltrate any building and cause severe indoor air quality problems.
Wildfire smoke can enter any building through open windows and doors, through cracks and crevasses, or through fans as part of the HVAC system. If a building is near an active wildfire, everything should be done to properly seal the property. Windows and doors should be closed, exterior venting shut off, and any cracks to the outside filled or blocked. Taking these precautions can help to minimize the smoke damage inside the building.
Even when all precautions are taken, soot, smoke, and/or ash can easily move into homes, offices, buildings, health care facilities, and schools. Ventilation systems need to be cleaned and maintained regularly, but especially during wildfire season. Filters may need to change and/or be upgraded and the vents, ducts, and base units may need to be cleaned.
Importance of HVAC Cleaning After Wildfires
Once the outdoor air has cleared, it is important to thoroughly clean the HVAC systems of any buildings in the area in order to protect the health of those who live or work in them. Smoke and even soot and ash can settle in the ventilation system and cause long-term indoor air quality problems.
After a wildfire, the entire HVAC system should be professionally cleaned, including the vents and ducts. Filters should also be replaced. Property owners may want to take this opportunity to upgrade the HVAC filters to HEPA filters in order to remove as many particles from the air as possible.
Upgrading HVAC Systems May Be Necessary
While cleaning the HVAC system is important after the wildfire smoke has cleared, it may be necessary to upgrade the system to support HEPA filters. These filters are designed to filter out the smallest particles and are excellent at helping to clean the air inside any building. Some older HVAC systems may not be compatible with HEPA filters and may need upgrades.
Since wildfires are expected to continue in the years to come, upgrading HVAC systems sooner rather than later may be a prudent plan. Upgraded systems remove more smoke particles from the air. That means the vents and ducts will remain cleaner in the event of another wildfire in the area. Indoor air quality that is filtered with HEPA filters is much cleaner and safer for those who live and/or work in the building.
Hiring an Experienced and Professional HVAC Cleaning Company
When facility managers and property owners are hiring a professional company to clean the HVAC system after wildfire smoke damage, it is important to look for a company that has a few key qualifications:
- They should be experienced not only with the cleaning and maintenance of HVAC systems in general but with post-wildfire cleaning of those systems specifically.
- A professional HVAC cleaning company should employ fully trained and certified technicians. Look specifically for a company’s employees to hold Air Systems Cleaning Certifications (ASC).
- Only work with companies that are certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
- Find an HVAC cleaning and maintenance company that is properly certified with local and state authorities.
- Hire an HVAC cleaning company that has a long-standing company within the community and has high reviews and ratings.
Facility directors and property owners should speak with a potential HVAC cleaning company and request a quote before any work is done on the property. The quote should be easy to understand, and detailed. Start and end times and/or dates should be also communicated with the property owner.
National Association Overseeing Air Duct Cleaning Companies
NADCA is an important overseeing body in the HVAC cleaning industry. Members of NADCA are qualified and certified HVAC system cleaning companies. NADCA supports its members through nationally recognized training and certification programs.
Air-tek is a proud member of NADCA. Their technicians are fully trained, licensed, and certified. For over 30 years, Air-Tek has been helping its clients to have cleaner and healthier indoor air quality. They are highly experienced in HVAC restoration after wildfires and can handle any sized job.
After a wildfire, it is important to take action on indoor air quality as soon as possible. Don’t delay in calling in the professionals for a full HVAC clean.