How to keep smoke out of your NC home as Canadian wildfires affect air quality

Ethan Hyman/

As smoke from wildfires in Canada continues to move into the U.S., North Carolina continues to be on alert for air quality issues.

In addition to encouraging folks to stay inside as much as possible until the haze clears, experts say residents should work to keep smoke out of their houses. Keeping smoke out of your home can help protect vulnerable populations, including kids, the elderly, and folks with preexisting respiratory conditions.

And many of the steps recommended by experts to seal your home cost little to no money to implement.

Here’s what to know about keeping smoke from the Canadian wildfires out of your house:

How do you seal a house from wildfire smoke?

You should keep your doors and windows closed when there’s smoke and ash from a fire in the air, the Environmental Protection Agency advises.

The EPA also recommends folks “avoid activities that create more fine particles indoors,” such as smoking, using a fireplace, frying or broiling food or spraying aerosols.

If you have a portable air cleaner, you should “run it as often as possible on the highest fan speed,” the EPA says.

And if you don’t have one, the agency adds, you can make a DIY one by putting a filter against a fan or “two filters taped with cardboard to form a triangle against the fan, or even more filters taped against the fan to form a cube.”

Do air conditioners bring in smoke from outside?

The EPA recommends using “fans and air conditioning to stay cool” amid wildfires but taking steps to keep smoke from getting inside your home through your HVAC system.

“If you have an HVAC system with a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode, or close the outdoor intake damper,” the agency says.

And if you have an evaporative cooler, avoid using it unless there is a heat emergency because it can result in more smoke being brought inside.”

“If you have a window air conditioner, close the outdoor air damper,” the EPA says. “If you cannot close the damper, do not use the window air conditioner. Make sure that the seal between the air conditioner and the window is as tight as possible.”

You also shouldn’t use a portable air conditioner with a single hose in smoky conditions “because it can result in more smoke being brought inside.”