Should You Be Running Your AC When Outdoor Air Quality is Bad?

Living in the northeast this year means living in a wildfire-impacted zone. Californians are no strangers to this problem as the last several years for them have been plagued with smoke-filled skies and dangerous air quality. Many of us turn to our AC units to keep us safe and comfortable during times like these, but what if it’s doing more harm than good?

Let’s jump into what to do when there’s bad air quality, how to protect your AC, and when to call an AC technician in Virginia.

Do You Have Bad Air Quality? 

Breathing is a simple everyday task for most but knowing what we’re breathing in isn’t as easy to understand. The first thing you should do to decipher if your air quality is poor is look up the air quality index (AQI) in your area. The AQI measures the levels of particulate matter in the air, ranging from 0-500+. These numbers can give you an idea of how dangerous it is to be outdoors and if any additional precautions are necessary.

If your area has an AQI of over 100, it is generally recommended to stay indoors and limit your outdoor exposure as much as possible. Even better, if you have a high-efficiency air purifier at home, now would be the time to put it to use.

Central Air vs Other Air Conditioning Types

If you have a central air conditioning system, you are almost 100% safe to run your AC during even the thickest smog. Central systems are designed to draw air from the outside and filter it before cooling your home, so you don’t have to worry about recirculating polluted air.

However, window AC units are a bit different. These draw the air from inside the room they’re placed in and can actually make the air inside worse if not used correctly. The general recommendation is to use window ACs in non-smoky conditions or when the AQI is under 100.

And if you’re ever in doubt about what to do, it’s never a bad idea to phone an AC technician in Virginia to make sure.

Air Filtration and Purification

Air filtration and purification systems are a great way to keep your home safe from the dangers of smoke and smog. This process can be as simple as an air purifier running in your bedroom or as advanced as installing a whole-house filtration system.

When shopping for an air filtration/purification system, make sure you look at the MERV rating. This rating is a measure of how effective the filter is at trapping particles in the air, with higher numbers indicating better performance. Air filters are not a one-and-done purchase; you’ll need to replace the filters regularly to keep your air clean. But, how often should you be replacing them?

When to Replace Your HVAC Filter

HVAC filters will drop not-so-pleasant hints when they need to be replaced. As to not ignore them and create a bigger problem, here are some things to look for:

1. Unusually High Energy Bills

High energy bills might not be due to you leaving the light on all day—this can be a sign that your filter is clogged. But if you’re not sure, always err on the side of caution and call an AC technician in Virginia.

2. Poor Indoor Air Quality

If the smoke or smog is still getting into your home despite having an air filtration system, consider this your warning sign that it’s time to replace the filters before things get worse.

3. Visible Dirt and Debris in the Filter

Spotting dirt and debris on your HVAC filter proves that it’s time to replace it. Even if the air quality is still passable, dirt and debris can reduce the effectiveness of your air filtration system.

4. AC is Not Cooling Your House Effectively

If your AC seems to be unable to cool the house as effectively as it was before, you may have a clogged filter on your hands. Replace your air filter and it should restore to its previous peak performance.

Replace your filtration system every three months to maintain a reliable system and avoid the extreme weather conditions seeping into your home. With an air filter in your home, you can keep the smog and smoke out and still enjoy the coolness of your AC unit during the wildfire season.

When to Call an AC Technician in Virginia

There are a few simple indications it may be time to call in an AC technician in Virginia, they’re as follows:

  • If things aren’t improving with a replaced air filter 
  • You feel as though contaminated air is coming indoors

An AC technician in Virginia will be able to diagnose the issue and find a solution quickly. They can also take a look at how your air filtration system is working, as well as inspect the rest of your HVAC unit for anything else that may need attention. With a professional on hand, you can rest assured knowing your home is smoke-free. You’ll never be sorry for taking extra precautions.

Bell Cow Has Your Back for Optimal Air Quality

At Bell Cow, our team of experienced AC technicians service both Virginia and North Carolina and are dedicated to providing the best possible service and advice across both states. We want you to be safe, comfortable, and cool during wildfire season—so if you have any questions or concerns about your air conditioning system, give us a call!

We’ll make sure that your home is protected from smoke and smog while providing you with the cool, clean air you need in order to stay comfortable inside your North Carolina and Virginia home.