Wildfire season is making an early arrival this year in California, with high winds and dry conditions already prompting red flag alerts and several wildland blazes in the Bay Area.
That means it’s time to prepare for the widespread smoke and bad air quality that so often accompany the worst of the season in the region — which may include looking into getting an air purifier.
Last summer and fall, the Bay Area choked under a pall of wildfire smoke for weeks. The air quality was so bad that the region set a record with more than 50 Spare the Air days for the year.
Some local hardware stores reported a spike in demand for home air purifiers during the thick of the smoke and haze last year — which coincided with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while many more people were working remotely.
If you’re thinking about making that investment this year, here’s what you should know about air purifiers and keeping your home smoke-free:
Why is wildfire smoke bad for me?
The short-term risks of breathing wildfire smoke include irritative symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, burning eyes, runny nose, wheezing and difficulty breathing. The effect of those symptoms on people with lung disease may be worse. Those with heart disease may have chest pain, palpitations or shortness or breath.
Do I actually need an air purifier?
On bad smoke days, it’s best to stay inside with the windows and doors closed, and keep your indoor air as clean as possible. If you have an HVAC system, experts recommend installing a high-quality air filter with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher, which filters out the particles that can get into the deep lung.
But some central air systems are not powerful enough to handle a heavy filter, said Mary Prunicki, director of Air Pollution and Health Research at Stanford’s Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, so check first before installing one.
If you are in a newer home or apartment building that is tightly sealed, energy efficient and has good filtration, and you don’t have anyone in your home with preexisting lung or heart problems, or anyone who is very young or very old, then you are probably set. If not, you might want to consider investing in a HEPA filter air purifier that can help remove particulate matter from the air, …….