As the summer bushfires choke Sydney for over a month now. Health experts are warning people to stay inside and shut your windows and close your doors. Use your conditioner to help reduce the amount hazardous smoke inside your home.
But, how effective is your air conditioner against bushfire smoke?
I live around the Parramatta area and work in Sydney CBD. In the office everyone can smell and even taste the smoke from outside.
I have tried using the AC day and night. But when my two-year-old daughter wakes up in the morning coughing continuously for 5 minutes, you begin to ask yourself is the AC really making any difference? what can I do to?
After some research, it turns out although aircons can help filter some of the bushfire smoke particles from the air. It doesn’t come close to what an air purifier can do.
Top 5 Air Purifiers
For Australian Bushfire Smoke
Air Purifier Australia For Bushfire Smoke
Winix Air Purifier
Winix Australia Air Purifier
With PlasmaWave Technology
Filtration: 5 stages – Pet filter, Washable pre-filter, Hospital Grade True-HEPA, activated carbon filter, PlasmaWave 2.0
Coverage: 530 ft2 / 49.5m2
Air Quality Display: LED indicator
Does It Filter Smoke: Yes
Replacement Filter: full set ~$175
The winix Australia Zero+ Pro air purifier will help reduce the smoke inside your home. The hospital grade True-HEPA and active carbon granules will capture 99.97% of all harmful particles not just the bushfire smoke.
Winix also has a feature called PlasmaWave (a fancy name for Hydroxyls) – Hydroxyls naturally occur in the atmosphere and they attach to and neutralise pollutants, odours and pathogens from the air – the PlasmaWave is able to reproduce this in the machine. So far it is the only air purifier i have seen with this feature.
This unit is perfect for medium to large rooms. Also follow our tips below on how to maximise coverage area and this unit could be used to cover multiple rooms.
Arovec Air Purifier
Don’t let it’s small size fool you. The Arovec compact air cleaner is a True-HEPA filter. It has a 3-stage filter system and zero ozone emissions. It’s filters are able to remove odours, allergens, smoke, pollen and dust just like the larger units.
The only draw back from it’s small size is that it will only cover a small room. Perfect for the bedroom and it small size makes it extremely portable.
Philips Series 2000
Philips Series 2000 Air Purifier
With AeraSense Technology
Filtration: True-HEPA, activated carbon filter
Coverage: 25-41 m2
Air Quality Display: Yes
Does It Filter Smoke: Yes
Replacement Filter: HEPA ~$79 / Carbon filter ~$55
This is the upgraded version from the 1000 series.
The Philips is extremely quiet with a range of 20 – 51 db(A). It has a large coverage area which is perfect for living rooms.
The AreaSense detects particles smaller than PM2.5 and will auto-magically adjust the fan speed to adapt. I particularly like the PM2.5 display that shows you what the current reading is.
So, i ended up getting the Philips series 2000 because i really liked having the pollution level (PM2.5) displayed on the unit. The AreaSense feature is what makes this possible. The purifier itself is really quiet when on low speed and even more quiet when on sleep mode.
I picked a smokey day in Sydney to give it a real test. I have a small study room down stairs and i opened the window and closed the door to the room for a few minutes before turning it on. Check out the results below:
Window Open On Smokey Day
PM2.5 reading: 381
After 2mins With Window Closed
PM2.5 reading: 17
That’s a massive difference. Remember 200+ is considered hazardous!
Partu Air Purifier
This air purifier is great for the home during allergy season. However, it doesn’t just remove allergens but also odours from teenage boys rooms and cigarette and bushfire smoke. At a range of 28-50dB operating noise this is very quiet for the area that it can cover.
Just like other systems it has 3 fan speeds where the lowest setting is super low. Hence the quietness, and the fastest is much louder but then it gives you a somewhat of a turbo speed to help clean the air quickly.
Last time I checked you also get free shipping with amazon prime saving you about $100 is shipping costs.
Dyson Air Purifying Fan
We all know the brand Dyson and can agree their products are innovative. But are their air purifiers as good as their other home cleaning products? Is it worth the extra cash?
If you are the type of person who is not only after functionality, but also like to own stylish products. Then the Dyson air purifier is the purifier you have been looking for.
The Dyson is Alexa enabled and has pretty much all the bells and whistles as the other brands do. The thing I like most about this one though is the fan can rotate 350 degrees. This is good especially if there are obstructions in the way. The rotating fan can get around furniture and other things to help increase air flow.
It can sense not only ultrafine particles but also allergens, organic compounds and Nitrogen Dioxide. But, for the price, you could get a another brand with greater coverage area or perhaps two units.
How Is Air Quality Measured In Australia?
Air quality is presented as an easy to read index. It is measured as a comparison of different air pollutants which include:
- sulfur dioxide,
- carbon monoxide,
- airborne particles
- nitrogen dioxide,
- and visibility
In the case of the recent bushfires engulfing the Sydney area the most harmful pollutants are the airborne particles. Specifically, the ultrafine Particulate Matter (PM2.5). This is the really nasty stuff that gets into your lungs and cause respiratory problems in young kids, the elderly and people who already have breathing or heart problems.
Studies also suggest but don’t conlcude that long term exposure to PM2.5 may be associated with reduced lung function and increased the risk of lung cancer and heart disease.
You can view the Air Quality Index (AQI) for the Sydney area on the government site.
As I look out my office window today and gaze into the haze of smoke the AQI is around 400 micrograms per cubic metre ug/m3 with a PM2.5 around the 200 mark from most suburbs. But, what does that mean exactly and how bad is it compared to other cities?
Let’s put this into perspective:
- One cigarette smoke a day has a PM2.5 reading of 22 ug/m3
- At it’s worst in 2017 AQI for Beijing had a PM2.5 reading of 121 ug/m3.
Yes, Sydney has been getting smoke pollution for the last month equivalent to a pack a day smoker!
Do Air Conditioners Filter Bushfire Smoke?
Air conditioners can help filter other particles from the air. But, they are designed to heat and cool the air, not purify it. That said though, all air conditioners have a basic filter that will trap dust and other larger particles from entering the system.
So, if you do run the AC at home to filter out bushfire smoke it’s important to set it to “recycle” the air inside. Using the AC this way should provide some relief. However, it pales in comparison to an air purifier.
Do Air Purifiers Really Work?
Yes, air purifiers with a True HEPA filter can remove a high portion of the airborne allergens and pollutants that are pushed through it’s filter ( about 99.97% ). This does include bushfire smoke (remove PM2.5 particles). However, not all systems are the same. Most will do a very good job of removing allergens but fall short for cleaning the air of ultrafine smoke particles. What you want to look for is a air purifier with a True-HEPA Filter.
Purifiers can remove allergens such as:
- And Bacteria
And can remove pollutants such as:
- Smoke from fires
- Smoke from cigarettes
HEPA filters are not new and have been around for a long time. For filters to be labelled as true HEPA, they must be able to remove over 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 microns in size.
In comparison, the average size of particles in your home is 0.5 microns in size, while other particles such as mold spores and pollen are greater than 10 microns. Cigarette smoke have been found to come in sizes on either side of the 0.3 micron threshold.
Are all HEPA filters the same?
All True HEPA will capture bushfire smoke.
But there are different grades of HEPA filters used for different situations (i.e. medical grade filters are >H13.
The higher class HEPA will capture a greater percentage of these ultra fine particles. So they depending on how clean you need the air to be you may want to buy a higher class filter medium than the one that came with the unit.
HEPA Class Rating
|HEPA class||Particulate size||Retention|
|H13||>0.3 μm||> 99.75%|
|H14||>0.3 μm||> 99.975%|
|U15||>0.3 μm||> 99.9975%|
|U16||>0.3 μm||> 99.99975%|
|U17||>0.3 μm||> 99.9999%|
tables above: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HEPA
Do You Need An Air Purifier In Every Room?
The short answer is “No”.
To determine if an air purifier is needed in each room of your house depends on its structure and size and the type of air purifier that is being used. Larger homes may require an air purifier to be placed in several rooms while smaller apartments can get by with only one air purifier. The manufacturer will usually have a rating on the coverage area that system can support written on the box.
Even though the coverage rating may not encompass your entire house. You can apply these simple tricks to maximise the coverage of your air purifier
- Air flow: place a fan in another room to help with air flow. I have ceiling fans in my house so when i have the purifier running I also turn the ceiling fans on help get all the air up stairs flowing to the air purifier.
- Positioning: the best spot for the system is a location that is as close to as many doors as possible. I then run my ceiling fans (I have one in every room) to help circulate the air to the purifier.
- Obstructions: keep the unit in an open space. This will maximise airflow and hopefully allow more air to pass through filter.
Features To Look For In An Air Purifier
When looking to purchase new system you want to have a HEPA air purifier that is labeled as a true-HEPA.
- HEPA: High Efficiency Particulate Air
- True-HEPA: is a HEPA that will capture 99.97% of particles. The important thing to note here is that it will remove PM2.5 particles (that’s the ultrafine particles from bushfire smoke)
- Activated Carbon Filter: removes odours such as smoke
- Washable Filters: This will help prolong the life of the filter and save you lots of money. As the filter mediums usually cost anywhere from $50 – over $100 to replace.
There is literally a ring of fire surrounding the Sydney area as i write this article. As a result, the air quality is now even worse than Beijing and comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
I initially thought “i could just ride it out” and next season we should not get bushfires like this again, right?
But, the more i think about it. Air purifiers in Australia don’t just remove smoke but also many other odours and allergens as well. In my opinion they are definitely a worthy investment and good to have around the home.