Wildfires can be devastating, leaving behind a thick blanket of smoke that can be hazardous to your health. Fortunately, HVAC systems can filter out the smoke, allowing you and your family to breathe easier. To do this, you'll need the right filter setup, and you may even be able to build the filters yourself. An air conditioner doesn't work like an air purifier.
While some may filter smoke a little, they should not be used as air purifiers. Additionally, it's important to use your air conditioner responsibly to prevent premature deterioration. Generally speaking, the best HVAC filters for filtering wildfire smoke are media, HEPA, electrostatic, and pleated filters. Before you start using your HVAC system to filter smoke, it's a good idea to talk to a local HVAC technician for advice on how to prepare your air conditioner.
The EPA recommends filters with a rating of at least MERV 13 or as high as can accommodate the system filter and fan slot. Replacing the filter with a medium efficiency filter (MERV 5) can also help improve air quality in your home. If you choose this option, make sure the filter has a high Minimum Efficiency Report Value (MERV) rating of at least ten. This is because the fan has to work harder to heat, cool and filter the air in your home if your HVAC fan is equipped with a PCS motor or consume more energy if an ECM motor is used.
Medium MERV filters provide much more filtration than basic MERV 1-4 filters with central air systems. These types of filters can capture visible contaminants such as pet hair and dust rabbits but not fine particles such as smoke. If you have an air conditioning unit, you will have some type of filter, however, these types of filters cannot trap smoke particles.