Since March 2023, over 4,000 wildfires have ravaged over 20,000 million acres of forest in multiple Canadian provinces. The smoke has traveled as far as Europe, and has also prompted a record number of air quality alerts in the state of Minnesota. As of July, the worst might not be over: Canadian wildfire season typically stretches May through October.


If you live in an area affected by the wildfires, then you may wonder how the smoke will impact the HVAC system and indoor air quality at your home or place of business. Make no mistake: wildfire smoke can and will enter your building’s HVAC system, and it will not do any favors to its filters, ductwork and mechanical units while it’s circulating around inside there. Here’s what you should know!


Wildfire Smoke Damages an HVAC System


Wildfire smoke doesn’t just worsen outdoor air quality. It also reduces an HVAC system’s efficiency and efficacy in a number of different ways.


  • Obstruction. Smoke consists of a number of different components, including ash, soot particles and various organic chemicals. Many of these substances can stick to air filter media and restrict airflow as a result. That forces a furnace, air conditioning unit and air handling unit to work harder and expend more energy in order to produce the same desired effect – unless their filters are replaced more frequently.


  • Restriction. Even the highest-quality HEPA air filter cannot completely prevent smoke from entering the HVAC system. That’s why soot and other sticky substances will form residue within the ductwork, which makes it narrower and less effective at directing airflow. Soot is also corrosive to materials including rubber and PVC, hence its ability to damage an HVAC system’s delicate electronic components.


  • Contamination. Soot and ash residue won’t just gum up HVAC filters and ductwork. It can also adhere to an air conditioner’s condenser coil, thus compromising its ability to release heat outdoors. In addition to reducing an air conditioner’s efficiency, soiled condenser coil significantly shortens an air conditioner’s lifespan.


Wildfire Smoke Impacts Indoor Air Quality


Wildfire smoke isn’t just harmful to a building’s HVAC system. It is also harmful to its occupants, as it contains carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and other substances such as aldehydes, styrene and benzene that are all toxic to people.


Your HVAC system’s filters will remove some smoke particles from the air circulating inside your property, but they won’t do a complete job. It is possible to further reduce occupants’ exposure to toxic smoke by closing outside air dampers, as well as switching blower fans from “on” to “auto” mode (thus reducing the amount of outdoor air that gets drawn inside the building). When additional protection against smoke particles is desired, installing an air purification system such as the REME HALO is a practical solution.


How to Mitigate Wildfire Smoke’s Effects on Your HVAC System


We have already touched on a couple of things you can do to keep your HVAC system more efficient while it has to contend with wildfire smoke: inspect and replace its filters more often, and install an additional air filtration system. Once the wildfires have finally subsided, you should also strongly consider having your ductwork thoroughly cleaned. Doing so will remove caked on soot and other residues rather than let them linger and impact your indoor air quality for years – and possibly decades – to come.


You may also hire an HVAC technician to come to your home and commercial property. They will detect any damage that may have been caused by smoke exposure, assess its extent, and propose the cost-effective solution to restoring your HVAC system to its pre-wildfire condition.


If you’d like to make sure your HVAC system remains efficient and effective this wildfire season, then we welcome you to contact Gilk Services today. Our team services residential and commercial properties for all their HVAC needs throughout Albany, Avon, Cold Spring, Eden Valley, Freeport, Kimball, Lake Henry, Paynesville, Richmond, Rockville, St. Joseph and Watkins, Minnesota!