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10 Tips for Buying an Air Purifier to Clear Wildfire Smoke

The Air Quality Index in Redondo Beach, California, is slightly lower than the average air quality across the United States, and wildfire smoke can make it even worse. Dr. Ulrike Ziegner, an expert allergist and immunologist, and founder of Riviera Allergy Medical Center, realizes that people living in Redondo Beach and the surrounding areas, who have asthma or allergies, may experience worsening symptoms when wildfire smoke is in the air. If you’re struggling to breathe easy in poor air quality, here are 10 tips for buying an air purifier to clear wildfire smoke from your home.


1. Choose an air purifier that’s HEPA-certified

High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) air purifiers are extremely effective at reducing invisible pollution inside your home. This is especially helpful when you’re clearing the air from wildfire smoke. HEPA purifiers capture small particles in the air that are typically not visible to the naked eye.


Remember, though, HEPA filters alone can’t remove chemicals and gases, so choose a HEPA air filter that includes activated carbon with potassium iodide and zeolite. These components take formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like noxious gases from wildfires, out of the air.

2. Avoid ozone and ionic air purifiers

While these types of air purifiers may work well under normal circumstances for everyday use, they can’t remove the fine particulates that accompany wildfire smoke.

3. Choose a portable air purifier that’s large enough for the room

When selecting an air purifier, it’s important to consider the size of the room where you’ll be running it. Buying one that’s too small won’t be as effective as one that fits the square footage of the room.


Most purifiers indicate the size of the space they can optimally clean with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) rating. The CADR measures the volume of air that passes through the purifier. Look for a CADR rating of at least 200, meaning the unit effectively delivers clean air to 200 cubic feet of space per minute.

4. Select a low-maintenance purifier

It might cost more up front to purchase a high-end air purifier, but you’ll save money in the long run with less maintenance costs. Some air purifiers only require you to vacuum out large dust particles from the unit, while less-expensive ones may end up costing more in frequent filter replacements.

5. Choose a purifier that doesn’t emit any byproducts

Believe it or not, some air purifiers that should be cleaning your air and improving the air quality in your home emit byproducts like toxic ozone. Be sure to read the product information carefully so you can get a purifier that doesn’t produce an “off-gassing” of toxic fumes. Air purifiers that use electrostatic-precipitation or ionic generation emit harmful gases, so steer clear of those.

6. Consider investing in an air purifier even if you’re not that close to the fire itself

You don’t need to be close to the source of a wildfire to feel the impact of the smoke. Just this past August, California wildfire smoke found its way 3,000 miles across the country to New York City. Invisible smoke particles and gases can become embedded in your furniture, drapes, and clothing long after you stopped seeing or smelling the smoke in the air outside.

7. Buy an air purifier if you’re in a high-risk group

If you have heart or lung diseases, including asthma, you’re at higher risk of respiratory problems from wildfire smoke than those who are healthy. Additionally, the older population and children are more susceptible to poor air quality, as are pregnant women. Even if you don’t have health problems, the smoke can cause eye, nose, and throat irritations, so an air purifier is always a good idea.

8. Select a portable purifier for flexibility

If you can, choose a unit that’s easily portable. That way you can move it from room to room for the cleanest air in any area of your home. For example, you may want to use your purifier in the living room or kitchen during the day, but relocate it to a bedroom at night to clean the air as you sleep.

9. Higher fan speeds and longer run times increase filtering capabilities

It may sound obvious, but running your air purifier at a lower speed filters less smoke and harmful gases from the air. Select a purifier that has high-speed fan settings so you can clean the air faster when outdoor air quality is at its worst. Run your purifier on high for a few hours, then reduce it to a lower speed, then back to a higher one, depending on the circumstances.

10. Consider the noise level of the purifier

You won’t want to sacrifice the HEPA filters and high fan speeds for noise levels, but if noise is a concern, check the rating. Some air purifiers list a noise rating on the packaging. Choose one that’s around 50 decibels – about the same noise level as your refrigerator.


Cleaning the air during wildfires is as important for immediate health needs as it is for preventing adverse long-term effects. If you don’t have an air purifier, investing in one today can mean a healthier future for you and your family.


If you have concerns about your allergies or respiratory conditions, call Riviera Allergy Medical Center to schedule an appointment, or request the next available time using the online system.

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