Be Prepared for Wildfire Season with an Air Cleaner

Now is the time to plan how you will maintain your indoor air quality during wildfire season. A room air cleaner is one of your best defenses when wildfire smoke and ash wreak havoc on indoor air.  In recent years, people in California, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, parts of Canada and other areas relied heavily on air cleaners to get through wildfire season. Retailers have reported that air cleaners were in short supply as fires burned.

The smoke and particulate matter put out by wildfires is a health risk for anyone, but it is particularly dangerous for people with asthma or other conditions that affect breathing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Government of Canada recommend that people in wildfire-prone areas consider purchasing an air cleaner as part of their preparation for fire season, a step also recommended by ASHRAE’s just-released 10 Elements of a Smoke Readiness Plan.

If you are shopping for an air cleaner to improve your indoor air quality during wildfire season, you will likely come across models that use different types of technologies to clear the air. More important than the method the air cleaner uses is whether the air cleaner is appropriate for the size of the room in which it will be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® seal and the air cleaner’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the air cleaner packaging. The seal means the air cleaner has been independently tested for its ability to remove tobacco smoke (the smallest particles included in CADR), pollen and dust. The suggested room size for the air cleaner will be noted prominently on the seal.

Under normal circumstances, you should choose an air cleaner with a smoke CADR two-thirds the size of the room in which you will use the air cleaner. However, those in areas heavily affected by wildfire smoke should select an air cleaner with a smoke CADR that matches the room size. For example, an air cleaner with a smoke CADR of 200 would be appropriate for a 200 square-foot room in an area affected by wildfire smoke.

If you are using an air cleaner to improve indoor air quality during wildfire season, take these steps to ensure that your air cleaner continues to operate at a high level:

Change the filter regularly: Your air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often to change your air cleaner’s filter. These recommendations are based on the manufacturer’s testing, but can vary depending on how often you use the filter and the level of pollutants in the air.  Extended operation in an area affected by heavy smoke may require more frequent filter changes. If the filter is changing color or if the level of air coming out of the air cleaner drops, it could mean the filter should be changed. Keep extra filters on hand, especially during wildfire season.  Purchase replacements from reputable sources to ensure they are authentic and not counterfeits.

Clean the outside: Some manufacturers recommend using a vacuum to remove dust from the outside of the air cleaner. Vacuum or gently clean the dust from the outside of the air cleaner when you notice a buildup. An air cleaner that is dirty on the outside is likely dirty on the inside, so make this part of the process when you are replacing or cleaning the filter.

Vacuum regularly: Air cleaners are only part of the equation if you are seeking cleaner indoor air. Do a thorough cleaning of the area and vacuum regularly to remove particles so they are not kicked back into the air you breathe.

Change your furnace filter: If you change your furnace filter regularly, you might not have to change the filter in your air cleaner as often. However, a furnace filter is not a substitute for an air cleaner because it is designed to trap large particles. In addition, it is common for particles to miss the furnace filter and end up inside the home.

Give your air cleaner room to breathe: It might be more convenient to place an air cleaner against a wall and in a corner, but that will restrict airflow and reduce performance. Move the air cleaner toward the center of the room and operate it on high in an area free of obstructions. The more air that goes through the air cleaner, the more pollutants it will remove.

COVID in Canada: How has the pandemic impacted life at home?

More time spent at home has been one of the most widespread changes to daily life since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many Canada residents took advantage of that extra time to tackle household projects and add conveniences to their homes.

AHAM surveyed more than 1,900 Canada residents in late 2020 to find out how the pandemic has changed their habits at home, including their appliance use and purchasing habits. Here is what we learned about the changes taking place within Canadian homes during COVID.

Home projects and pastimes

Canada residents surveyed reported dedicating more time to a variety of household activities. Thirty-four percent said they spent more time on household cleaning, while 26% and 21%, respectively, reported spending more time on indoor organization projects and indoor maintenance projects than they had before COVID. Other activities that received more attention on were garage organization, lawn, landscaping or gardening projects and outdoor maintenance projects.

Many also said they had big plans for their homes in 2021. Decorating/redecorating the house was the most popular activity those surveyed (31%) said they planned to complete in 2021. Other popular choices were purchasing new furniture (29%), purchasing new major electronics (28%) and completing a home renovation (24%). Respondents also reported appliance-specific plans for 2021, including:

  • Upgrade major kitchen appliances (20%)
  • Purchase/replace countertop appliances (19%)
  • Upgrade home laundry appliances (19%)

New habits

Not surprisingly, 47% of respondents said they have been shopping online more since the pandemic began. Home cooking also surged, with 43% reporting cooking more meals and preparing food more at home. Forty-two percent said they were calling/video calling with friends and family more, 31% said they spent more time cleaning/tidying their house. Twenty-three percent reported using major appliances more often, and another 23% said they were cutting their hair more at home.

What appliances have Canada residents been buying during COVID?

Canadians who reported purchasing appliances since the start of the pandemic were most interested in small kitchen appliances and personal care appliances. Here is how appliance purchases ranked among respondents. The percentage is the number of respondents who reported purchasing appliances in the category since the start of the pandemic.

  • Small kitchen appliances (30%): Coffee makers, toasters, blenders, air fryers and toaster ovens were the top five most popular in this category.
  • Personal care appliance (26%): Electric toothbrushes topped the list, followed by hair dryers, hair clipper/shavers, hair curlers and hair straighteners as Canada residents took over their own hair care.
  • Major home appliance (15%): Clothes washers were the most popular in the major home appliance category, followed by refrigerators, microwave ovens, clothes dryers and dishwashers.
  • Vacuum or floor care appliance (15%): Upright vacuums topped the list, followed by corded stick vacuums, cordless stick vacuums, canister vacuums and robotic vacuums.
  • Air treatment appliance (10%): Nearly half of respondents who reported buying an air treatment appliance said they purchased an air purifier. Humidifiers, portable fans, portable air conditioners and portable heaters followed.
  • Central vacuum system (3%)

Home after the pandemic

AHAM asked those who reported doing more of various home-related activities if they expected to continue their new habits after the pandemic has passed. Here are the percentages of those who expect their behaviors to continue.

  • Cooking meals/preparing food at home: 38%
  • Shopping online: 38%
  • Cleaning/tidy the house: 28%
  • Calling/video calling with friends and family: 26%
  • Spending time outdoors in nature: 26%

AHAM’s survey was conducted in late December 2020. While they were pessimistic about the situation at the time, 71% predicted that within a year, the situation would be much better or somewhat better.

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