Managing Indoor Air Quality

Reduce the Smoke Build-up in Your New Home

The past few weeks have offered Calgarians plenty of hot, sunny days that have us checking into summer vacation mode. However, it can be difficult to fully enjoy the warmer temperatures when they are accompanied with the intense smoke that we are seeing from ongoing forest fires across western Canada. Smoke is comprised of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles that can have serious implications on one’s health – especially for the vulnerable populations such as those with respiratory infections or illnesses, the elderly or young children. This week the smoke finally rolled into Calgary and homeowners across the city are left wondering how to maintain optimal indoor air quality. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that outdoor air pollution will enter homes in a variety of ways:

  • Natural Ventilation (i.e., open doors and windows)
  • Mechanical Ventilation (i.e., kitchen fans, bathrooms fans, and HVAC systems)
  • Infiltration (i.e., small cracks or openings around windows and doors)

While it may be tough to avoid the smoke entirely, there are a few things that can be done to ensure indoor air quality in one’s home remains as fresh as possible.

Keep the Home Airtight

  • While we normally advise homeowners to promote frequent air exchanges in their homes as often as possible, the opposite would be true when the outdoor air quality is this poor. Keep all windows and doors shut and avoid running the mechanical ventilation systems whenever possible. Check all windows and doors for small air leaks and reseal or recaulk as needed.

Change Furnace Filters

  • In a typical home, we suggest changing the furnace filters every 2-3 months to maintain good air quality. However, when homeowners are still living in an active construction zone we recommend increasing this to every month to combat the high levels of dust. Similarly, with such poor air quality from forest fires we recommend changing out the furnace filters once a month at a minimum. If anyone living at home is susceptible to respiratory irritation, then it is worth buying a pack of cheap filters and changing them as needed until the air quality regulates. Click HERE for a video explaining how to change a furnace filter.

HRV Maintenance

  • The HRV (heat recovery ventilator) cycles out the stale and moist air in the home and replaces it with filtered fresh air from outdoors creating balanced ventilation throughout the home. To promote healthy air circulation, ensure that the HRV filter is properly maintained and cleaned out as needed. Click HERE for a detailed video outlining how to clean the HRV filter.

Clean Other Filters

  • It is important to remember that anything that circulates air in the home is currently dealing with an overload of air pollutants and is having to work extra hard. Other filters to consider changing out or cleaning would include hood fan vents and bathroom fan blades.

Invest in an Air Purifier

  • Technology has come a long way and there are now portable air purifiers one can purchase at a local hardware store or online for under $200. These machines typically work best in smaller spaces such as bedrooms and can infinitely improve the air quality while you sleep. There are also vent filters that you can purchase that sit in your floor or wall vents and can serve as another layer of protection between the air that is getting circulated throughout your home.

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