An Air Cleaner Can be Helpful in High-Risk Wildfire Areas

As wildfire season approaches, now is the time to plan for how you will maintain cleaner indoor air in your home. Wildfire areas are at risk for higher air pollution, making your family more susceptible to health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses like bronchitis. Read the guidance below if you live in a wildfire area and are considering purchasing a room air cleaner to help improve your indoor air quality.

Why Should I Buy a Room Air Cleaner?

rendering of blue house with airwaves flowing through it.

Wildfire smoke can enter your home in many ways, and an air purifier can help mitigate its effects!

As the number of wildfires increase every year, an ENERGY STAR certified room air cleaner can be part of your mitigation strategy to help you protect your health and indoor environment. Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles. Room air cleaners can help to remove fine particles from the air in your home during a wildfire smoke event.

Learn more about decreasing particulate matter in your home during wildfire smoke events and how it can help protect your health:

How Do I Find the Right Air Cleaner for My Home to Mitigate Wildfire Smoke?

Choose a CADR based on Room size: Room air cleaners are designed to filter the air in a single room or area. Because there are many sizes of room air cleaners, determine the square footage of the room where you will use the room air purifier most often. The table below offers guidance on selecting a model with the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) that aligns with the square footage of your room.

When buying a room air cleaner for wildfire smoke, it is important to make sure you are buying the right size air cleaner for your space. You should select an air cleaner with a smoke CADR at least 2/3 the room area in square feet. For example, an air cleaner with a smoke CADR of 200 would be appropriate for up to a 300 square-foot room. If you experience frequent, very high smoke concentrations, you may want to purchase an air cleaner with a higher CADR.

Portable Air Cleaner Sizing for Particle Removal
Room area (square feet) 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900
Minimum CADR (cfm) 65 130 195 260 325 390 450 515 580

Note: CADRs are calculated based on an 8-foot ceiling; if you have higher ceilings, you may want to select an air cleaner with a higher CADR. The CADR listed is based on the CADR required to remove 80% of smoke particles, assuming one room air exchange per hour, and the rating is typically measured at the air cleaner’s highest speed.

Look for the ENERGY STAR. Room air cleaners that are ENERGY STAR certified are 25% more energy efficient than standard models, helping you save on energy bills while also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

How Should I Maintain my Room Air Cleaner?

How an air cleaner is maintained and operated can affect its performance. If you are using a room air cleaner in an area affected by wildfire smoke, take these steps to ensure that your air cleaner continues to operate at a high level:

  • Change the filter regularly: While your room air cleaner will come with a user manual with cleaning recommendations, living in an area affected by wildfire may require more frequent filter changes. So, be sure to always keep extra filters on hand, especially during wildfire season.
  • Clean the outside: If your room air cleaner is dirty on the outside, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean the outside of your air cleaner as part of your filter changing routine or if you notice buildup to ensure that the particles do not end up back in the air.
  • Give your air cleaner room to breathe: While keeping your room air cleaner tucked tight away in a corner might be aesthetically pleasing, it restricts airflow and can hinder performance. Give your air cleaner some space around it to ensure that airflow is not obstructed. It is also important to use it in the room(s) where you spend the most time.  

Other Tips:

  • Use the highest fan setting during smoke events: Air purifiers are tested and report the CADR based on the highest fan setting. During a smoke event, run your air purifier as often as possible on the highest fan setting to help ensure you are getting the appropriate CADR filtration.
  • Avoid activities that create smoke or other particles indoors when smoke levels are high:  If you are advised to stay indoors due to a smoke event, avoid activities such as smoking, burning candles, using aerosols, and frying foods that may increase particles in the air. Also avoid vacuuming unless it uses a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Use a damp cloth or mop to trap settled dust particles.[1]
  • Change your furnace filter: Changing your furnace or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filter can also help improve your indoor air quality and decrease the frequency with which you must change your air purifier filter. Upgrading to a high-efficiency HVAC filter can also trap fine particles. If you decide to use a high-efficiency HVAC filter, choose one with a MERV 13 rating, or as high a rating as your system fan and filter slot can accommodate. You may need to consult a professional HVAC technician to determine the highest efficiency filter that will work best for your system.  HVAC filters are only effective when the system is running. Switch the system from automatic to always on (or equivalent setting) during smoke events.
  • Keep doors and windows closed during smoke events. If your HVAC system or AC unit has an air intake (this is not common), or you have an energy recovery ventilator, close the air intake for the duration of the event.

Ready to start looking for the best air cleaner option for your home? Use the ENERGY STAR Product Finder to find and compare certified models from a wide variety of manufacturers. There are many options available with different sizes, styles, and features to fit your design and lifestyle. Also, search the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if there are rebates available in your area.

Author: Ga-Young Park, ENERGY STAR Certified Products