Smoke Coming Through Your HVAC System? Breathe Clean Air at Home

home air filterThe Central Valley is a great place to live. We have a lot of great restaurants, art, culture, and some great educational systems—all coupled with great weather and plenty to do in the great outdoors. But there are also some drawbacks, and one of the complaints I hear a lot is how smoky and smoggy it gets here, especially in the summer. It’s a problem for all residents, but especially those with asthma or breathing trouble.

The Central Valley’s Air Woes

Air quality fluctuates a lot throughout the course of the year, and is affected by winds and weather as much as by cars and industry.[1.] But in an area like ours, with heavy industrial and agricultural use, as well as lots of traffic, the base level for smog is higher than in, say, Truckee. Sacramento is only a few feet above sea level, and smog sits in the valley during times when there’s no wind or rain to clear it out.

This problem is magnified during wildfire season, and we saw that this summer. Smoke is produced by wildfires on a massive scale, and in some years it continues to bombard us for months. This last summer was the worst in a long time, with smoke hanging outside for days and air quality warnings for our area.[2.] When the air outside is so bad, it makes you wonder about the air inside your own home.

Keeping Your Indoor Air Clean

A lot of people don’t think about it, but the HVAC system in a house acts as a barrier to outside air and contaminants in three ways. The first way is by using a home air filter to filter any outside air drawn in for circulation, whether for heating or cooling. This is why part of regular maintenance is to change those air filters: they get clogged and dirty from outside air.  

The second step in keeping your internal air clean is to have a tightly sealed house. You want your windows tight, your door sweeps and weather stripping intact, and any holes or gaps in the house patched pronto. There may be other less obvious ways that air is getting in or out of the house—say, for example, loosely fitted windows or doors. The best way to find problem spots is to have an HVAC pro come take a look, and see if there’s anything you can do to optimize your house.

The third step in this process is positive pressure; the idea is that clean air in your house pushes out of any places that it can. The tighter your house is sealed, the more likely it will have a slightly higher air pressure than the outside. This means that air will tend to flow out of the house instead of in—stopping smoggy outside air from getting into the house.

An HVAC professional may recommend any of a number of things for keeping your house’s air nice and clean, and it’s hard to narrow them all down in one blog post. But the basic theory is the same no matter what. When Bell Brothers comes to look at a house, we offer free estimates and ideas on what can be done to improve indoor air quality, whether through use of a specialized home air filter or by sealing your home more tightly.

And there is a lot that can be done. If you’re concerned about the air in your home, you should give us a call. This goes double if someone in your house is asthmatic or has conditions related to breathing (like emphysema). It’s very likely that that no matter what breathing or air problems you have, a good HVAC system can help. And nobody knows HVAC like Bell Brothers does.