Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Wallow Fire Smoke at Sunset

Living in the Southwest many of us are accustomed to brilliant blue skies, 100 mile views and great air quality. But clean air isn't guaranteed, especially in the spring and summer fire season. Currently, firefighters in Eastern AZ (and soon Western NM) are fighting the Wallow Fire, which has grown to hundreds of thousands of acres. Wildfire is dangerous for those in it's path and living downwind in the smoke plume. Winds are blowing smoke across New Mexico and our habit of opening the windows each night for the cool breeze has been suddenly suspended.

Of course, we still need to cool the house, so I've DIY'ed a quick solution. Our 'home cooling system' is a couple of box fans strategically placed in windows each evening. Off to the hardware store to buy two good quality, pleated air filters and a roll of good duct tape (ironically, the same brand). I carefully duct-taped each filter (20*20" to match the fan size) to the intake side of the box fans with the air direction arrow pointing to the fan. I then placed the filtered fans in a window and closed air gaps as best I could. On the opposite side of the house I opened a window to half the width of the fans to allow the filtered air to exhaust.

Does it work? Actually, it is working pretty well. We woke to a cool and relatively smoke-free house. While duct-taping a good air filter to a box fan is silly simple, it is also surprisingly effective. Please note, that the higher the quality (a higher MERV rating is better) of your air filter, the greater strain you will put on the fan. It also will help to clean your fan blades and grilles, and oil the motor shaft before taping a restrictive filter over the intake.

Hopefully, the firefighters will contain these wildfires quickly and the monsoon rains come soon. In the meantime, we have a serviceable answer for cleaner air in our house. I'm also looking into a truly green way to improve our home air quality. Some common house plants (Areca Palm, Mother-in-law's Tongue, Money plant) are known to be effective air cleaners. Now I'm off to the local nursery to see what plants they have in stock.

More Info:

American Lung Association - State of the Air Report

InciWeb - Wallow Fire

Kamal Meattle on how to grow fresh air

List of air-filtering soil and plants

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - song