How to Protect Yourself From Cache Valley’s Bad Air Days This Winter
Winter is coming up and for Cache Valley residents, that means we need to get ready for the inversion. For those who don’t already know, the inversion is when the cold air causes the air pollution to sink into the valley. This means that we get points when the air quality dips to the worst in the state, sometimes the entire country. This can cause serious health issues for residents. In response, cities in Cache Valley have instituted mandatory restrictions on burning wood and other materials in the past.
We can probably expect to see these restrictions again. Like last year, the smoke from the fires in California, Nevada, and even here in Utah can be expected to make the inversion worse. We should take some steps to prepare for it and to help reduce the amount of air pollution we deal with.
1. Reduce Driving
While the smoke from all the summer fires is nothing to sneeze at (cough about, certainly, but not sneeze at), the primary source of air pollution tends to be carbon monoxide emissions from cars. This will make up a major portion of the inversion’s pollution content. You can reduce this by reducing the amount you drive. For these occasions, we can still minimize the pollution by arranging car pools, or using Cache Valley’s public transit system. Reducing the number of cars on the road will dramatically reduce the pollution output. We have plenty of options for it available, so arrange to take advantage of them.
2. Arrange to Work From Home
Many of us have done this because of the Covid-19 outbreak, but it will also help with the air quality. If you work a job that can be done from home, talk to your employer about the option. For most of us, the majority of our time spent driving is to and from work, which we do almost every day. Working from home will eliminate all of that driving and, by extension, all of that pollution.
3. Cut Down on Fireplace Usage
While not many of us need to use fireplaces to heat our homes anymore thanks to other heating systems, many of us still start fires for comfort. A warm fire on a dreary winter evening is very cozy, I will admit, but burning wood puts out a lot of smoke and that’s not good. If you want the ambiance and coziness of a fireplace, consider artificial or digital fireplaces. You can even find virtual fireplaces online. It seems silly, but it’s the look and sound of the fireplace that produces the calming effect, so this actually works. It gives you the ambiance without the pollution.
4. Clean Your Air Ducts
So far, we’ve been focusing on reducing pollution, but even our best efforts won’t completely prevent the inversion, so we’ll also have to plan on ways to make the air better in the controlled environment of our home. One way might be cleaning your air ducts. According to Easy Breezy Ducts, you should clean your air ducts every 3-5 years to get rid of any build up in it. This not only can improve the quality of air coming from your HVAC, it improves the performance, allowing you to get better results from your heater while running it less often. It can improve the indoor air quality while also saving you money.
5. Consider Air Purifiers
Do air purifiers work? I’ve been looking into this and the consensus is “yes, but it’s hard to say for sure how much.” Because it’s difficult to control the testing, it’s hard to tell how much effect the air purifier has on the home. Nevertheless, an air purifier will capture pollutants and can help improve the quality of the air when used in conjunction with other methods.
There is a caveat, however; not all air purifiers are created equal. The best air purifier appears to be the HEPA, but even that can miss gasses composed of very small particles. It should be good enough for the smoke and pollution caused by the inversion, though.
Certain filters are also potentially dangerous and should be avoided. UV filters, for example, are touted as effective against mold and viruses because they kill them with radiation. While this does work for that purpose, they do not filter out pollution and can also produce ozone in potentially toxic amounts. Ozone filters have the same problem and are even less effective. Home Climates has a good breakdown of the pros and cons of most filter types available on the market.
We Should All Do Our Part to Reduce the Inversion
The inversion is a serious health concern in Cache Valley, especially for people who suffer from asthma, or other respiratory problems. While the inversion is always going to happen, the health problems it causes is directly affected by the amount of pollution in the air. While it will be hard, if not impossible, to reduce the pollution levels to a point where the inversion will pose no health problems, we should all do our part to help. We can reduce the air pollution by reducing how much we drive and by avoiding burning wood in our fireplaces.
To make this work, we need to plan for it. Arrange carpools, learn bus routes, and set up work from home options to minimize driving time. To protect our homes from the remainder, we can clean our HVAC systems and improve air quality through air purifiers. Now is the time to prepare, before the inversion arrives. We can all do our part to minimize the effects of the inversion.