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Forest Fires Affect Calgary Air Quality

Alberta Forest Fires Affect Indoor Air Quality CalgarySmoke from the wildfires is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility over much of the province. The City of Calgary has issued the following statement: “Calgary may experience smoke from Northern Alberta wildfires. If the air is smoky in your area, keep your windows closed and reduce strenuous outdoor activity, particularly if you have young children, are elderly or pregnant, or have lung or heart issues.” We have been receiving a high number of calls from concerned citizens inquiring how to preserve their indoor air quality and what to do when the air quality index reaches a high risk status.

Advice for Calgarians During Summer Forest Fires

• Stay indoors, especially seniors, pregnant women, children and immunocompromised individuals, and those with asthma and lung disease
• Check weather alerts daily for updated statements and warnings
• Check the Calgary Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). Download the AQHI app.
•  Keep windows and doors closed to maintain clean air inside your home
• Ensure you are using a carbon filter in your furnace
• Avoid using a vacuum cleaner

What You Need to Know About Air Quality

Learn about the Air Quality Health Index and how to protect your family from air pollution.

Q & A: Reduce the Risks from Forest Fire Smoke in Your Home Air Quality and HVAC System

How do forest fires affect air quality?

Forest fires create harmful emissions that can impact your health by affecting your lungs, eyes, and throat. Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause headaches, coughing, shortness of breath, aggravated allergies and asthma attacks.

How do you keep wildfire smoke out of the house?

Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible. If you have an air conditioner run the unit but keep the fresh air intake closed and keep the filter clean. You can also use a portable HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter to help with purifying the air. If you do not have an air conditioner or air purifier you can use the filter in your furnace. The only way your filter will help with the smoke is if you have a carbon filter. If you combine central air with the carbon filter then you will not have to open the windows and you will be able to breathe fresh cool air in your home.

Can I use my furnace fan to clean the air?

If you don’t have central air or an air purifier, setting the furnace fan to “auto” when you have a carbon filter will help improve your indoor air quality.

Do I need an air purifier?

It is helpful to have a portable air cleaner with HEPA filters to improve indoor air quality. HEPA filters trap smoke and extract micro particles from the air. An air purifier with an activated carbon component will help remove VOCs from the smoke.

How often should you change your air conditioner filter or furnace filter?

As the filter does its job, it gets loaded with more and more particles, eventually requiring cleaning or changing. This really depends on how dirty the environment is to begin with.  We recommend cleaning or changing your whole home heating and cooling system filter every 30-90 days depending on the number of people and pets that live in the home. Upgrading your filter to a higher MERV rated filter like the Lennox Carbon Clean MERV 16 will improve indoor air quality. For more information on when and how to change your air filter, read our post ‘Air Filter Know-How’.

Do you need to change your AC filter or furnace filter sooner if there is smoke in the air?

Yes, you should change your air conditioner and furnace filters more frequently if:
• You have pets
• You smoke
• There are pollutants or wildfire smoke in the air
• You use a high MERV rated filter
• You have a drafty home
• The weather has extreme temperatures

What if you smell forest fire smoke in your home?

If you notice the smell of forest fire smoke lingering in your home, complete required filter maintenance. Keeping the filter clean will help to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Learn more about your HVAC Filter and how to know if it is time to change your filter.

Is it ok to run fans or air ventilation systems when the air quality is poor?

No, it is not recommended to run fans or fresh air ventilation systems when there are air quality concerns as they will bring the smoky outdoor air inside.

I have a wall-unit air conditioner or a window-unit ac, is there anything I can do?

Yes, set your AC unit to re-circulate so that it is not bringing in air from outside.

Arpi’s offers indoor air quality solutions. Our home heating and cooling solutions and air purification systems provide Calgarians with the highest possible standards of comfort at home and work.


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