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The 2020 wildfires on the edge of the Portland metro area reminded urban and suburban residents to take precautions.

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Firefighters worked with community organizations and homeowners throughout the Labor Day fires in 2020.With multiple wildfires burning across the state, communities nearby are coping with the fire threat, but also with the threat of smoke.

The following

are tips from Energy Trust of Oregon on how to keep smoke out of your home and the air in your home safe:

• Replace your air filter frequently: During smoke events, your filter may need to be replaced every six weeks to maintain healthy indoor air quality and to avoid extra energy use. Check your filter for dust and debris buildup at least once per month during heavy use and more often in heavy smoke conditions.

Filters with a high minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) have a much finer weave that catches far more particles compared with standard filters. However, you may want to consult the manufacturer's manual or website for the best advice on the filters you should be using. After wildfire season, make sure to switch back to a standard filter and replace them every three months.

• Switch to "fan only" mode temporarily: It is a good idea to use your HVAC system in "fan only" mode during wildfire season. This ensures your system is operating continuously to run your indoor air through the filter. Remember to go back to "auto" mode before cold weather returns and heating season starts, so that the system kicks on only when needed. That way, you will avoid increasing your energy use and raising your costs.

• Tighten seals around windows, doors and window air conditioners: If your doors or windows are drafty, install weatherstripping to help prevent smoke from drifting into your house. If you have a window air conditioner, either close the outdoor air damper or do not use it. If you have a portable air conditioner with a single hose, typically vented out of a window, do not use it in smoky conditions. If you have a portable air conditioner with two hoses, make sure that the seal between the window vent kit and the window is as tight as possible.

• Avoid creating more fine particles & air out your home after a smoke event: Avoid activities that create more fine particles indoors: smoking cigarettes; using gas, propane or wood-burning stoves and furnaces; spraying aerosol products; frying or broiling food; burning candles or incense; and vacuuming, unless you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. When air quality improves, air out your home by opening windows or the fresh air intake on your HVAC system.

Use a portable air cleaner or high-efficiency filter to remove fine particles from the air: Run it as often as possible on the highest fan speed.

For more information on indoor air quality during wildfires, check out resources from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This column was adapted from an Energy Trust of Oregon press release.


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