Air Conditioners During Bushfires: What To Do When The Flames Affect You

On 7 February 2009, the state of Victoria in Australia experienced its worst ever bushfires on record, with more than 700 fires burning on one day. This year, bushfires will continue to spark up during the hot summer months, and as a resident of Victoria, it is important you have a bushfire action plan in place just in case fires move close by. Even bushfires that are not in your immediate vicinity can cause discomfort to your family because of the ash and smoke in the air; however, your home air conditioning system can make life a little more comfortable for those inside your home. Here's what you need to know about using your air conditioner when bushfires are making their presence known.

Air Conditioners Can Make Breathing Easier

The smoke from a bushfire 100 km away can impact on the ease of breathing for family members both young and old. Bushfire smoke contains carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water vapour, which are all irritants to those with fragile lungs. If you can smell the smoke from the bushfire, or you can see a general smoke haze around the area of your home, then these tiny particles in the air could affect you or your family.

If the fire is not close enough to cause an evacuation, the best way you can protect your family from having breathing difficulties is to keep them inside. Change the setting on your air conditioning unit to recycle so it is not drawing the polluted air into the system. If you do not know how to do this, check with your local air conditioning specialist the next time they are visiting to do maintenance on the system.

Additionally, if your air conditioning unit has a filter option, but you have not been running a filter in it, now is the time to add one. The filter will help to trap any small gas or debris irritants that try to enter your home in the bushfire smoke.

Protecting Your Air Conditioner Before Fire Arrives

When you are next having your air conditioner maintained, discuss having ember guards installed on the outdoor portion of your air conditioning unit. Ember guards are fine mesh panels that sit between the air grills of your unit. They allow air to continue flowing through the system, but they reduce the chance of tiny embers getting inside the unit and starting a fire.

Protecting Your Air Conditioner When The Fire Gets Close

When the threat to your health from bushfire smoke becomes a threat to your health from bushfire flames, you need to put your fire plans into effect. Remember that your air conditioner can still help to provide filtered air to help you with easy breathing, but you need to protect the air conditioner to keep it running.

One of the best things you can do to prevent damage to your air conditioning unit is to keep the filter pads wet while the air conditioner is running. You can do this by watering them with a garden hose (remove them first so you don't get water on the electric circuitry of your air conditioner.) Wet filter pads will reduce the chance of the unit catching fire if floating embers get into the outside portion of your air conditioning unit.

Once the smoke and flames get too close, it is time to turn off your air conditioning unit and evacuate the home. Once the all-clear has been given for you to return, contact your air conditioning repair professional to have them check out the system and make any repairs before you turn it back on. That way, you can enjoy cool, clean air once more while you clean up any debris the fire left behind.