Residents are being encouraged to plan for poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke.
The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and Santa Barbara County Public Health Department offer tips to decrease particulate matter from smoke and ash. The tiny particles can harm the lungs and heart and cause coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, and in severe instances, premature mortality.
People with heart or lung disease, seniors, children and pregnant women are especially sensitive to smoke.
The air pollution control district and health department say the best protection against wildfire smoke is to stay indoors.
To further protect your family, the district and department suggest these steps:
— Pick a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) purifier to reduce particulate matter indoors by 90%. These can be purchased at hardware stores or online retailers.
— Make sure that the HEPA doesn’t create ozone. Find a list of safe options at www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/aircleaners/certified.htm.
— HEPA purifiers come in various makes and models for different room sizes. Use the purifier in a room where you spend a lot of time like a bedroom. HEPA purifiers for an average-sized bedroom cost approximately $75.
— Check your windows and doors, and make sure the room is sealed tightly so smoke from the outdoors does not get pulled inside.
— Replace the filter as directed in the owner’s manual. Filters need to be replaced more frequently if used during a wildfire.
A do-it-yourself version of an air purifier can be a more affordable option, with materials costing around $40. Such a version has been found to reduce harmful particles indoors in a way similar to that of a HEPA purifier.
Here’s how to make your own purifier.
— Use tape to attach a 20-by-20 MERV-rated air filter — like what you would use for your HVAC system — to the back of a 20-by-20 box fan. Attaching to the back of the fan creates a better seal.
— Use a filter with a MERV rating of 13.
— Check the filter for the direction of the air flow marked on the side of the filter.
— Check your windows and doors, and make sure the room is sealed.
— Replace the filter more frequently if used during a wildfire.
— As needed, disassemble the box fan to wipe away any accumulated dirt.
For safety, follow these precautions with your filters:
— Use a box fan that is from 2012 or newer because of added safety features.
— Don’t leave the device unattended.
— Turn off the device while sleeping.
— When the fan is modified in this way, use the device as an air cleaner, not as a fan to cool your home.
The air pollution control district and health department also give these tips about minimizing particles indoors.
— If advised to stay inside, keep windows and doors shut and sealed tightly.
— If temperatures are high and there is no way to keep the home cool with windows and doors shut, consider temporarily moving somewhere with better air quality.
— Upgrade your filter in your HVAC system to a MERV filter with a rating of at least 13. Check with your HVAC professional to see what MERV rating your HVAC system can handle to ensure proper functionality.
— Do not smoke or burn firewood, candles or incense in the house.
— Use your range hood while cooking, especially when using a gas stove.
— Consider using professional services for a blower door test to detect air leaks. This service can help you know how to properly seal your home.
During wildfires, there are various ways to stay updated on local air quality conditions:
— Sign up to receive air quality alerts from APCD and Public Health at www.ourair.org/subscribe.
— Check hourly air quality conditions and daily air forecasts at www.ourair.org/todays-air-quality.