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How Can I Remove Smoke from My Home?

Smoke is a gas containing many harmful pollutants. As a gas, it freely moves in the air, interacting with atmospheric gases, extending several hundred feet into the air column or more. There are several different sources of smoke, and all of them are bad for you if you have either short or long-term exposure.

From wildfires to cigarette smoke, there are plenty of harmful gases entering your lungs if you breathe them in. People dealing with allergies or asthma have greater sensitivity to smoke pollutants than people without these issues.

If you have smoke allergies or asthma, you'll probably experience a flare in your symptoms immediately upon exposure to the smoke. These individuals will experience symptoms like headaches, respiratory issues, and sometimes, they may even require medication or hospitalization to recover from exposure to smoke pollutants.

Smoke and Air Quality

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a data system measuring air quality in cities across America. The official website has information on your city, just log in and search for it. The AQI utilizes a color-coded system to identify the current status of the air quality in your area.

Green means good air quality, while purple and maroon mean you need to stay indoors. People with allergies should limit outdoor activity on any days where the AQI is orange or higher on its grading scale.

The Californian wildfires sent the local AQI index to the highest level for months at a time. If you have allergies and live in California, you would have to spend large parts of the blisteringly hot summer indoors as the skies turn orange with the smoke in the air.

Even people without allergies need to stay indoors on these low-quality air days., Running around town doing errands when the smoke is thick in the air can damage your health. On low-quality air days, individuals need to wear a personal respirator to filter the air and reduce exposure to gasses and particulate matter in the air.

However, research shows that smoke, and the gases it contains, can pass through masks, even those with a KN95 rating. It's better to wear a proper mask. Choose something similar to what painters wear to filter out the VOCs from paint fumes.

Children should also avoid going outdoors when heavy smoke is in the air, and the AQI is high. Playing sports or participating in activities on these days means that children are breathing in large amounts of toxins, and these toxins then enter the bloodstream.

Children breathe in as much as five times more oxygen when they are playing, and that means they get greater exposure to the toxins in smoke and airborne pollutants on low-quality air days.

Why Do We Need to Avoid Smoke?

It seems rather obvious that we should all avoid exposure to smo9ke. However, there are different formats of smoke. Some come from outside the home, and some come from within the home.

External sources of smoke come from natural events like wildfires and from industrial emissions. Both pollutants are hazardous to your health.

However, smoke from industry may carry several different chemical pollutants into the air, depending on the nature of the manufacturing or processing work done at the plant. For example, the smoke released from a coal-powered electricity station is different from that emitted by a paper mill.

The paper mill may release sulfurous compounds into the air, causing the local area to smell like bad eggs for hundreds of yards away from the plant. The wind may carry these pollutants for dozens of miles, causing people in neighboring towns to get faint smells of the sulfurous odor occasionally.

Smoke exposure from internal sources includes sources like cooking on gas stoves, fireplaces, coal barbeques, and cigarettes. All these smoke sources may cause levels of p[particulate matter and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) to accumulate inside the home. According to CDC data, the air quality inside the house is, on average, around 5-times worse than outdoors.

The winter can also lead to high levels of poor air quality in the home. People close windows in cold climates, limiting ventilation and airflow to rooms in the house.

Cigarettes and tobacco products are also a concern, especially the use of these substances inside the home. Cigarettes contain thousands of carcinogenic and unstudied chemicals. They even contain dangerous VOCs like formaldehyde.

Smoking indoors dramatically reduces air quality, increasing levels of gaseous pollutants in the home. People with allergies that live with smokers will find they have exacerbated symptoms and an increased frequency of allergy attacks.

Secondhand smoke is a serious problem for sensitive people and children. Exposure to secondhand smoke in the car and homes can cause developmental issues and increase the risk of children developing asthma and other breathing disorders.

Kids who live with smokers are also likely to catch colds and complications like bronchitis more than those that live with non-smoking parents.

How Do I Prevent Smoke from Getting Into My Home?

To improve the air quality in your home, you need to make sure you keep the windows and doors shut when the AQI displays low air quality in your area. Smoke travels through the air quality, spreading fast, especially in high wind conditions.

Keeping the windows and doors to your home shut on windy days ensures that smoke doesn't enter your home. This strategy also prevents other airborne pollutants and particulate matter like pollen and dust in the air from entering your house.

However, it's one thing to tell you to close the windows and doors, but it's another thing actually to have to do when it's 110F outside. On hot days, closing the windows and doors to your home may turn it into a sauna.

If that's the case in your home, you need to seriously consider investing in an air purification system. Air purifiers come in a range of different models to suit your needs and your budget. They let you control the air quality and conditions inside your home while keeping the windows and doors shut to block out the pollutants.

You have options for whole-home systems, or single-room units mounted permanently into the home or room structure. You also get a range of portable models with varying functionality and capacity.

How Do Air Purifiers Remove Smoke from the Air in My Home?

Air purifiers remove pollutants like smoke and particulate matter from the air by containing the air and climate within your home or room. For air conditioners and HVAC systems to work correctly, they require the closing and proper sealing of all windows and doors.

The air-con or HVAC then draws in air from outdoors through a vent, processing it through a filtration system. It pushes the air out into the room or the home, recirculating it throughout the house, as with HVAC, or a room, as with air-con systems.

Portable units require you to link up an exhaust port to the nearest window, allowing it to expel the hot and humid air from the room. All air purification systems filter the particulate matter, smoke, and other pollutants out using different methods.

Most models come with a HEPA filter, the gold standard of air filtration technology. However, the issue with HEPA filters is that they don't take all the gaseous contaminants out of the air. As a result, some of the gases found in smoke escape the filtration system and continue to circulate in the air.

VOCs are great examples of gaseous pollutants that can slip through the fibers in HEPA filters. VOCs like formaldehyde can pass through the fine fibers in the HEPA filter and release back into the room.

To get rid of VOCs in smoke and other gaseous pollutants, you'll need to get an activated carbon filter.

Carbon Filters and Hybrid Air Filter Systems for Your Home

As mentioned, while effective at removing 99.87% of particulate matter from the air, the HEPA filter isn't effective at eliminating smoke or VOCs from the air. As a result, these toxins accumulate in the air inside your home, and you continue to breathe them in.

However, there is hope. The activated carbon filter scrubs the air clean of all smoke and VOCs. The carbon filter also removes odors, refreshing the smell of the air in the room. Using a pre-stage carbon filter to remove the gas before passing it through the HEPA filter ensures that you get as many contaminants out of the air as possible.

Systems that incorporate the use of activated carbon and HEPA filters together are known as "Hybrid Air Purifiers." If you live in a state like California, where smoke, smog, and other air pollutants are a health concern, investing in one of these cleaners is the best way to safeguard your family's health.

Before You Buy an Air Purifier – Test the Air Quality in Your Home

Many homeowners rush out to purchase air purification when they learn about the dangers of smoke and VOCs in their homes. However, before you find the nearest online retailer and order your system, start with checking the air quality in your home.

MI&T operates an air quality testing service for your residence or business premises. We come to your home and inspect the air for a range of contaminants. We specialize in mold detection, and we'll find any trace of it in your home.

After completing our test, we issue you with a comprehensive report on your findings. We'll also recommend methods you can use to improve the air quality and your family's health. We don't contract with any air purification companies.

Therefore, you can expect that you get an unbiased review of the air inside your home. We're not looking to sell you anything; we just want you to know what you breathe in every day. 

The Best Air Purification System for Smoke

Choosing an air purification system for removing smoke from your home is challenging; you have so many options that it's hard to settle on the right solution. However, you can work under these guidelines when selecting the right air purifier.

Hybrid Air Purifiers

As mentioned, you will need a hybrid air purification system to handle the duty of removing smoke and VOCs from the air. Buying a single-stage HEPA filtration system won't be as effective as a hybrid model.

Room or Whole-Home?

Do you want to control the air in a single room or throughout the whole home? If you just want to go with a single room, then a portable unit or fixed air-con for that specific room is a great idea. A mobile unit also allows you to wheel it from the living room to the bedroom for cooling and air management anywhere in the house.

However, if you have a large home with several rooms, an HVAC system might be more expensive, but it's the best choice to ensure all rooms in the house have the same air quality standard. HVACs run the air through a ducting network in the home, with a central purification system controlling the air quality in the house. You can add system light UV-C light traps and carbon filters in any custom configuration you want.

Your Budget

Your budget plays a big role in choosing the right air purification system for your house. HVAC is the better choice, but you might not be able to afford it. If that's the case, a portable model is the next best option. You get the advantage of cooling and purifying the air, with the added benefit of portability and movement between rooms.

What Do I Look for In My Air Purification System?

When purchasing your air purifier, the primary features you're looking for are the carbon and HEPA hybrid filtering system. However, you'll also need to look at the BTU power in air conditioning systems and HVACs to determine if they are the right capacity for the room size.

Choosing the right BTU to math the room capacity is essential for the correct function of the machine. Choosing an underpowered air conditioner means that it won't be powerful enough to cool the room properly.

If you're not sure about the exact size, it's always better to go up a model than down a model. You can

always run the overpowered device on a lower setting to reduce output, and you'll save on electricity at the same time.

A Word on HEPA Filters and Manufacturing Standards

It's important for homeowners to note that there is no set regulatory standard on consumer HEPA filters. The government only regulates HEPA filters at a commercial level. Therefore, if you're buying a consumer product, you'll have to rely on the "UL" certification standard to ensure you're purchasing the right HEPA filtration unit.

Avoid models stating they offer "HEPA-Like" or "HEPA-Type" filters. Typically, these filters are not "Ture HEPA," and they don't meet the guidelines of removing 99.97% of particulate matter from the air. Only purchase models with the True HEPA certification recognized by the Ulm association.

Do Ionizers Remove Smoke and VOCs from the Air?

The ionizer function is becoming popular as a marketing point with air purification manufacturers. The claim is that ions produced by the system cling to particulate matter in the air, weighing them down so they stick to walls and the floor. As a result, you end up cleaning up the ions with your regular home cleaning activities.

However, the issue with ions and ionizers is that creating negative ions also involves the by-production of ozone. Ozone is useful to us in the stratosphere, but it's a pollutant at ground level.

Exposure to ground-level ozone can cause respiratory distress in people with allergies and asthma. Rather avoid purchasing air conditioning models with ionizer functions.

How Do I Reduce the Smoke Smell In My Home?

If you don't have the budget for an air filtration system for your home right now, that's okay. You can use these strategies to reduce the presence of smoke and VOCs in your home.

One of the simplest and most affordable methods of removing cigarette smoke and other airborne contaminants from the room is using the liquid air cleaner. This system contains liquid with aromatized drops added to it. The liquid sits in a bowl, and a fan pulls air through the liquid, scrubbing it clean of contaminants before releasing it into the room.

These units are more affordable than air-con systems or portable units, and they are somewhat effective at removing most airborne contaminants and VOCs in the air.

If you have smokers living in the house, convince them to smoke outdoors. Preventing smoking indoors stops the contaminants from releasing into the air and sticking to surfaces around the home. However, it's important to note that formaldehyde will also adhere to the walls and surfaces in the smoker's outdoor smoking area.

Keeping your home clean is vitally important for reducing the contaminants on surfaces and upholstery. Make sure you order a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove as much dust and particulate matter from the air as possible.