Enrique Quesada, Manager of Vernon Modern Purair franchise, shows off the difference between a new filter and a one-month-old filter that had been exposed to Okanagan smoky skies. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

HVAC system filters choked by smoke

Local experts said health risks associated haven’t disappeared now that the smoke has.

With a thick layer of smoke covering the Okanagan for a large part of the summer, local experts are warning residents to clean the furnace and ducts in their homes and change the filters in their homes and cars more often.

Related: Okanagan air quality at a high health risk

Related: Air quality improves slightly

“With the forest fire smoke in the area it is more important than ever to replace filters,” said Neil Grant, Modern Purair expert. “It should be changed out every three months under normal circumstances with more frequent replacement necessary under current conditions. Now that the smoke seems to have cleared, there are things homeowners can do to ensure they are breathing clean air in their homes.”

Enrique Quesada is the manager of Vernon Modern Purair franchise. He considers HVAC systems — including furnaces, air conditioners, duct work — the lungs of the building.

“The furnace constantly ‘breathing in’ and ‘breathing out’ while the system is operating, which you are then ‘breathing in’ and ‘breathing out’,” he said. “The furnace is the lungs of the entire system and the idea is that the “fresh” air outside be recycled and repurposed inside. The issue with the filters right now is that with all this smoke, the filters are getting entirely dirty. If the filter is plugged in, the smoke gets in that way and actually contaminates the inside.”

He said that he, as a professional working in the industry, is seeing these problems continue, and even increase now that it’s getting colder. He said that with smoke from the summer months now lodged in the furnace, it forces the motor to work harder, ultimately making it more vulnerable to break in the future.

Throughout much of the summer — up until mid-August — air quality around the Okanagan, like much of the province, was considered a high health risk, ranking up to a nine on the Air Quality Health Index, a scale that shows the health risk associated with the air pollution we breathe.

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This is a furnace filter from a home in the Okanagan which was brand new — white and clean — just three weeks prior. (Photo contributed)

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