With our beloved Australia on fire this summer, many are asking us “Are air conditioners safe to use with all the smoke around?”
Apart from the tragic deaths of 25 people and 480 million animals and the flames that have destroyed almost 2000 homes across Australia, the vast majority of the nation is suffering from the toxic smoke and air pollutants that have ravished our air quality for months on end.
The smoke from the Australian bushfire crisis has crossed to our New Zealand neighbours and has even reached Chile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
With our own Central Coast experiencing hazardous air pollution levels and the nation’s capital experiencing poor air quality at 23 times the level that is considered hazardous, many Australians are starting to realise just how much we have taken our clean Aussie air for granted.
How Bad is Bushfire Smoke For Your Health?
Bushfire smoke produces very tiny particles of pollution, small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs. This can produce short term symptoms like shortness of breath, sore throat, coughing, irritated sinuses, and headaches.
Being exposed to the smoke haze for extended periods of time may lead to more serious health problems. People with pre-existing heart and lung problems such as emphysema, angina, and asthma may suffer a worsening of their conditions, including heart attacks and asthma attacks.
Children, who are developing their airways, are more vulnerable as they spend more time outdoors at school and child care.
How to Protect Your Family From Smoke
The NSW Government has issued warnings to avoid outdoor activities and remain indoors with windows and doors closed. If you have an air purifier or an air conditioning unit it is advised to use these (who wouldn’t in our summer heat?) as they can filter out toxic pollutants from the air and stop them from entering your home.
Air conditioning systems range in their ability to filter out toxins. The best Central Coast air conditioning available to filter toxic air will be found in major shopping centers, libraries, cinemas or community centers. So, Erina Fair here we come!
If you choose to stay at home during hazardous smoke events then it is critical that you locate and clean your air conditioning filter. See here for what bushfire smoke will do to your filter. Consider having your air conditioner serviced by a qualified professional or have them assess whether your unit is eligible to install a high energy particle air (HEPA) filter to improve your air conditioner’s ability to remove fine pollution particles.
If you have given your air conditioner filter a clean and want to do more, consider turning on an air purifier as well. Please note that humidifiers and odour absorbers will not remove hazardous smoke from your rooms.
For optimal results, close all windows and doors (this is generally the best practice for residential A/C systems anyway) but also switch your unit to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ to reduce drawing smokey air into your filters. If you are not sure how to do this consult your unit’s manual or speak to a trained professional today.
If there is a break in low-quality air conditions then consider opening up the house to allow recycled air out and fresh air in.
Households with vulnerable family members should consider identifying locations with large ducted air conditioning systems such as shopping centers to retreat to when conditions are hazardous.
Additionally, consider wearing P2/N95 face masks that filter toxic smoke particles from the air wherever you are. This would particularly benefit those who cannot avoid being outdoors. Be certain that they are the correct size for you and that they seal around the mouth and nose
Some downsides to wearing masks worth considering are they are hot and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time and can make breathing more difficult for people who already suffer from heart and lung-related medical conditions.
Air conditioners are absolutely safe to use in our current fire and smoke crisis. Don’t hesitate any longer, crank those beauties Australia!