Cleaning HVAC System After a Wildfire

Orlando, FL – The 2015 wildfires are estimated to result in $237.3 billion of damage in just seven in the United States this year.  A segment of these wildfire costs includes those to HVAC systems.  For associates and service providers residing and working in these areas, a massive job lies ahead to actively ensure the safe operation of HVAC systems following the drawn-out and extended burn of the 2015 wildfires.

A building doesn’t have to burn for its HVAC system to sustain damage from a wildfire.  Soot can infiltrate even well sealed HVAC systems.  These microscopic particles that make up soot can penetrate deep into the lungs and can cause serious health problems such as premature death, heart attacks, strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.

Both operational and non operational HVAC systems can become contaminated by soot in the following ways:

  • Inadequately installed duct and grille connectors
  • Propped open fire dampers
  • Return or cold-air ducts
  • Heat recovery ventilators installed in newer homes
  • Air handling units pressurized by outside air
  • HVAC systems operating in “Fan On” mode
  • Ceiling and whole house fans in operation

A study done by the Institute for Business & Home Safety reported on by the National Fire Protection Agency recommends to place mesh screening around building vents in eaves, siding, dryers and roofs to help further prevent soot infiltration. Embers may still penetrate a building’s HVAC system and enter into the systems filter.  Filters can only do so much and should not be regarded as a fail-safe when it comes to filtering soot.

The best solution for HVAC cleaning is a thorough inspection and air duct cleaning.  You may also consider deodorizing the metal ductwork.  Any ductwork that shows signs of fire damage or signs of heavy contamination should be replaced.

There are other concerns that may need to be addressed in HVAC cleaning other than soot penetration.  They are as follows:

  • Heat damage to flex ducts. All melted flex duct should be replaced
  • Fire Embers can cause burns throughout an HVAC system and cause irreparable damage

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