Do This to Prepare for the Next Round of Wildfire Smoke

Xiami Air Purifier
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Wildfire season kicked off earlier than usual this year, and it’s likely not going away any time soon. You don’t want to be caught trying to deal with smoke when it’s already here. Now is the time to prepare.

In early June, Canadian wildfires brought record poor air quality to the U.S. East Coast and some areas of the Midwest. While the air quality has improved since then, it’s still worse than usual in many places, and it could stay this way all summer. There are a number of things you can do to be prepared for the next spike.

Invest in an Air Purifier

VCK Dual Filter Air Purifier set up on table
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

If you live someplace that hasn’t been regularly affected by wildfires, you probably don’t have—or see the need—for an air purifier in your home. However, as many people on the East Coast have found out, those places are becoming rarer. It might be time to invest in an air purifier.

Thankfully, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on an air purifier anymore. Sure, you can drop $999 on a medical-grade air purifier, such as the AirDoctor 5000, but something more affordable, like the $99 Levoit Core 300, is also great.

Levoit Core 300

Looking for an expensive but reliable air purifier for your home? The Levoit Core 300 offers True HEPA filtration, and you swap between four filters.

Personally, I have the Xiaomi Mi 3H Air Purifier, which costs a little more at $179. It has the added benefit of being app-controlled, and you can see the air quality and filter life on the OLED display, which I find very helpful. How much you decide to invest is up to you, but you’ll be glad you have something when the next wave of smoke hits.

Or Make Your Own

Box fan
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

A dedicated device is a nice convenience, but you can actually make your own surprisingly effective air purifier at home. During the COVD-19 pandemic, engineers Richard Corsi and Jim Rosenthal created a design for an air purifier that uses four or five HVAC air filters, a box fan, and some cardboard and duct tape.

The “Corsi–Rosenthal Box” can be put together in around 15 minutes for as little as $50. The filters make up the four horizontal faces of a cube, with the box fan (and optional fifth filter) being placed on top blowing up. The fan sucks in air through the filters and blows out clean air. The design also utilizes the box that the fan came in for the bottom of the cube and a shroud.

How effective is this DIY approach? According to a 2022 study, the Corsi–Rosenthal Box had a clean air delivery rate between 600 and 850 cubic feet per minute, but costs roughly 10 times less than commercial air purifiers.

If you’re interested in building your own Corsi–Rosenthal Box, you can find the material list and instructions on Wikipedia.

Get AQI Alerts On Your Phone

EPA air quality app for android

You probably already use your phone to check the weather, but it’s just as handy for keeping tabs on the air quality in your area, too. There’s a good chance your favorite weather app already includes this information.

On the iPhone and iPad, you can see local AQI (Air Quality Index) directly in Apple Maps and the Weather app. Over on Android, you’ll need to install a third-party app. However, that’s not a bad thing, as it’s even better to get alerts when the air is particularly bad so you don’t have to manually check every day.

For iPhone and Android, we like an app called “Plume Labs: Air Quality.” The app is free to download and doesn’t contain ads or in-app purchases. You can add multiple locations, choose the Air Quality Index for your country, and get alerts about air quality in your area.

RELATED: How to Check the Air Quality Near You (or Anywhere)

Monitor the Air Quality Inside Too

Aranet4 CO2/temp/humidity monitor
Jason Fitzpatrick / How-To Geek

An app will help you know when the air outside is unhealthy, but what about the air quality inside your home? That’s where an air quality monitor—or “air sensor”—comes in. An air quality monitor is simply a device that measures pollutants in the air around it.

For wildfire smoke, you’ll want an air quality monitor that has the ability to measure particulate matter, such as PM 2.5 and PM 10. The Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor shows your air quality in the Alexa app and can pair with Alexa-enabled speakers and displays. It measures PM 2.5 along with a host of other pollutants for only $69.

For a more self-contained solution, you can upgrade to the AirKnight 9-in-1 Indoor Air Quality Monitor. It has a display that shows all the current readings in real time, no app required. It measures PM 2.5, PM 10, and other big pollutants for $134.

Stock up on Masks

Pile of masks.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

The best course of action to take when the air quality is really bad is to stay indoors. However, that’s not always realistic—sometimes, you just have to go outside. You’ll want to have some N95 masks around just in case.

You may already have a decent supply of N95 masks lying around from the COVID-19 pandemic. They work great for blocking the particulate matter from wildfire smoke, too. For a trip to the grocery store or your commute to work, this is an easy thing to have on hand to protect your lungs.

3M 9205+ Aura Particulate N95 Respirator

A disposable particulate respirator that is designed to help provide respiratory protection of at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against certain non-oil based particles.

If you are required to be outside for your job, you may want to be ready with a P100 respirator mask. You can go full nuclear fallout-chic with the 3M Half Facepiece, or keep it minimal with some 3M disposable respirators. These masks will be more comfortable than an N95 for all-day use.

The moral of the story is to do what you need to do to be ready now. If you wait for the air quality to get bad, you’ll be stuck scrambling for air purifiers, box fans, and masks with everyone else. It’s always better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

And, on the upside, monitoring your air quality, filtering your indoor air quality, and having masks on hand for DIY projects and cleaning, are all great things to do all year round. You’ll just be extra prepared when the air gets hazy.

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