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Old 09-04-2017, 05:45 PM   #1
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Tips for handling smoke from forest fires

If a thread is going about this, I've missed it and apologize for starting another.

Wanted to share a few things we're doing to the off and on many weeks of smokey, unhealthy, air from the numerous fires all over the West. (We're now in our 7th - 8th week of off and on such conditions.) While we're specifically in a Class A, suspect these tips would help any RV'er.

I also was hoping others would share their tips too.

In no particular order, and some items we have not done:
> Relocate (We have not done this, as we've been in the Northwest now for 5 weeks, and altered our travels from Santa Fe, NM to the region, also due to fires and dangerous health conditions we dodged.)
> HEPA Air Filter (We have not done this, but will research small formed HEPA Air Filters to add to our arsenal.)
> Windows kept closed, and a fan left on to create a positive air pressure chamber. (We're 40', and found our 8" Verando Fan on Medium does a this well for us. Bigger coaches may need High, or larger fans. And smaller RV's may get by with smaller fans, or fans on low.)
> AC's on. (This is where the above mentioned fan was changed from Low to Medium - AC's can draw some air in thru minor leaks to the exterior (Slides, windows not fully sealed, faulty door seals, etc.). When this happens, the AC actually will draw smoke or unhealthy air into the coach.)
> On Roof Mounted AC's. Most of these come with thin filters behind the return grill. I went to a hardware store, and bought the highest filtration furnace filter I could find. (I went with a 3M unit that had a charcoal element built into it as well. Could not find the actual rating. But 3M filers go from 750 to 2200 filtration levels (With 2200 being the best filtration.). These were all the conventional pleated with looking material. Vs the combo pleated white and charcoal impregnated filter I bought.).

These were cut to about 1/2" overlap of the return grill. I then used green frog painters tape, and or blue painters tape, to tape them to the to the bottom side of the return grill. Looks funny, but within 2-3 minutes of returning on the roof AC's, the air inside the coach was noticeably better. Within 15 minutes, no more smoke smell. (And gang, we're in Eugene for the last 8-9 days. Over the Labor Day weekend, we had visibility as low as 1/4 mile due to two days or so of no breeze, and the smoke from various fires in the region. Second worse smoke condition we've been in...)

>>>> This addition of the the taped on higher quality filters, is the single largest improvement. We fun the AC on Low Fan Only overnight, to keep the air clean.

> And of course, normal good maintenance of the standard AC's filter is a first start. We cleaned ours three times prior to coming up with adding the extra higher quality filtration taped to the bottom of the return grill.

>We also have bought the RVAIR filter, which provides a higher level of filtration then the standard thin green/grey filter on the inside of our AC return grill. This is about 3/4-1" thick white filter, with two layers. And I used this first, for two or three days. Don't like the looks of it hanging on the bottom of our grill, it's white, and our coach is beige. So I do not leave in place at all times. I tape the on when needed, and then put them in large gallon zip lock baggies to store until needed again.

Note: These are for Penguin 15K units, from a 2004 era coach. RVAIR has different filters for different AC's, and I believe some of them recess inside the grill.

ON EDIT: I remembered! We always carry, and rotate out based upon age, some higher quality breathing masks. Have not needed them yet, but in case we're ever in a location where an active flame fire escape road drive is needed, we have them available. With two in a 'bug out kit' too, for if we take the Toad. (We used them during one of the nasty fires in San Diego region years ago, just going outside of out home. And have always kept them fresh since then. Old Boy Scout, so what can I say!!!)

No question this helped, and was much better then OEM grill with the Penguin. Within 24 hours of usage, we could see the white grills durning to a grayish color. It was because I was concerned this filter would become too clogged to use, that I decided to go and get the mentioned 3M filter and cut it down in MacQuiver way.

Note2: We looked into HEPA vacuum cleaner bags too. Thinking we could cut them apart and to shape and tape them up too. But all of the HEPA bags we looked at, were below 1000 level of filtration. (Which would be better then nothing, for sure!)

> And for those of you running your generators during these extremely smokey conditions, remember to inspect and replace your air filter more frequently, and change as needed. Same for engine air filters too.

> For those with Toads or Trucks for towing, that have cabin filtration systems. Keep an eye on them too. Ours was replaced 7 months ago, and when I checked it after week 5-6 of out smokey traveling - it was time to change it again. (Where as I usually do it annually.)

Seems I'm forgetting something else we've done, but dang if I can remember! So I'll post this now.

Please keep and eye on each other, and those around you. As we've helped a few fellow RV'er's that were having trouble breathing as they were hooking up their toads, and or tearing down a campground to head out. This takes a toll on us too. My DW and I have restricted out outdoor activity much more so then we'd have liked too.

Sure would appreciate CPI'ing what I have done, and or, other tips too. As we'll be in the region another week, then travel South towards California which has their own fires raging too. So would welcome other ideas!

Best to all, travel safe, have fun,
Smitty
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Old 09-04-2017, 07:18 PM   #2
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Great information! Thank you
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Old 09-06-2017, 10:21 PM   #3
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We had an email today from a gent we'd met in our travels.

Much of the nation is aware of Harvey, and now Irma. And yes, the big three new stations do cover some of the fires in the West, just not at the same level.

He'd read my post, and as bad luck would have it, was in the Columbian Gorge as the multiple fires of the past few days broke out. He, his wife, and his three older dogs were told to prepare to evacuate. The day before, he'd gone into the local hardware store an bought the 3M 2200 level heater filter. Some blue tape, and before they headed out, he cut out a piece of the filter, and taped it the grill of his two AC units.

He gave felt it made a difference, as they drove thru mile after mile of heavy smoke, in long slow moving traffic lines, as they were escorted out of I84 and off to he South...

I only share this. As while for my wife and I this has been only an improvement on a unhealthy situation - for him and his wife, and animals in much heavier smoke conditions - the roof AC Fan Only running (He was conserving fuel, so had the generator on, but only was running the tow AC's on Fan Only, and low setting, so it would filter the smoke out of his 36' Class A.).

Again, it looks funny, sure not a 'designers interior touch' but dang if it does not continue to help us - but made a difference for them much closers to harms way.

(Note: In case the news in your area may not reflect this. Many areas of the Northwest are on fire. So many RV'er's are subject to these kinds of conditions. The South side, and major Highway (I84) that follow the Columbian Gorge, has been closed on a major section of it going in/out of Portland. Just one area of Oregon, with major fires still in play (Idaho, Montana, Northern California, Washington - all have fires in play. And the peak fire season is between now, and end of September. Some major news stations covered the fire impact on The Eclipse Crowds, but this has grown. Heck, one major Southwest fire, has a projected total outage date of early October... So, it will get worse, before it gets better.).

Irma, Harvey - for sure our thoughts and prayers are with all in those regions. But, also keep positive thoughts flowing for many that are in harms way from fires too... Not just for lost of homes, personal belongings - but also for long term health impact form smoke.

Best to all, and do what the Boy Scouts Do - BE PREPARED. (I will now rotate out a yearly fresh supply of cut to grill size 3M filters for our AC units. Keep them in a gallon ziplock, and hope to rotate them out yearly not being used!)
Smitty
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:24 PM   #4
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Good suggestions! I do not think running a circulating fan inside a closed-up RV creates a positive-pressure environment though. Positive-pressure requires an outside air source greater than all air exit openings combined, and a fan strong enough to compress air(positive pressure). Do you have a filtration method for outside makeup air?
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Old 09-09-2017, 10:40 PM   #5
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I also don't think the ACs or any internal fan can create a positive internal pressure, without bringing in outside air.

We have been in the Mt. Rainier/Portland/Spokane/N Idaho/MT area since 8/15 and the smoke has been getting progressively worse. Ash on vehicles in Portland, and complete loss of any view further than 1/4-/1/2 mile. This morning, in Whitefish, MT, the wind changed direction and picked up speed (bad for the fires...) and cleared the area to see blue sky and clouds--actually saw a sunset for first time in a month.
Certainly, these fires have been devastating for those living around them, and then the floods in Houston/LA areas, and now the FL hurricane. Going to ruin lots of lives this year.
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Old 09-09-2017, 11:08 PM   #6
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Smoke form all the west coast fires has been an issue all across BC ( 135 fires still burning across the province ), with visibility down to 150 yards at times .
All my usual routes to my snowbird site, are questionable right at the moment , hopefully the weather change that started last night here with light rain temp only making the mid 50s ( F ) as compared to last weeks high 80s ;will get the smoke down and give firefighters a chance. Aircraft have been grounded many times by the poor visibility.
Thankfully I have 5 weeks before I travel and hope the onset of fall weather brings these fires under control .
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Old 09-10-2017, 12:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty77 View Post
Some major news stations covered the fire impact on The Eclipse Crowds, but this has grown.
I've been in Wyoming, Montana, and British Columbia for the last few weeks. I think the eclipse would have been perfect in all that smoke--the sun is an orange ball that you can look straight at with naked eyes, so you could have viewed the eclipse as a part of the world instead of through eclipse glasses, which looked more like a computer simulation than real life to me.

It rained yesterday, and today it's beautifully clear. I kind of wondered what a day of rain would do to a forest fire--turn it into a smoky smoldering mess like campfires? But I'm a believer right this minute.
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Old 09-10-2017, 11:14 PM   #8
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Very possible I made a both a bad conclusion, as well as a did a poor job of expelling things (Not the first time this has happened. Though born in Key West, and raised in San Diego - my wife sometimes explains to friends and family that 'English is his second language, not clear on what his first is...':!).

>On Positive Air Pressure

This was referring to running our Vernado Fan, with all things closed off in the coach. I'll readily concede this may have only seemed to cause a positive air pressure in the coach. As all it was doing, was moving air around in the coach. Not bring more in, or adding 'more pressure'. Suspect it helped dilute the smoke we smelled from external sources of smoke filled air into the coach.

So, call this a wash. May help on perceptions, as in how it did for me. But probably not forcing any air out of the coach via positive internal pressures, just circulating it around.

>I'm concerned my mention of fans, is confusing what I feel still was a positive change for us. By running the AC, or it's 'fan only' option. With all windows in the coach closed. I do feel having the mentioned enhanced filtration taped to the bottom of the Roof Top AC Unit's Return Grill (Ducted system here, though I doubt that matters.), did make a dramatic difference in the quality of the air within our sealed up coach.

Recall I went with the Charcoal Version high end 3M house unit filter, cut and taped to return grill size. Vs the 2200 filtration level 3M filter. It was a weekend, and I felt the charcoal enhanced pleated filter, would reduce/absorb smoke. But, over the next week, I'll call and see if I can talk with the tech support at 3M on which these two filters. Charcoal vs 2200 level filtration. Would have been best in our fire smoke condition.

And to be fair to the RVAIR filter supplier, I'll call them and ask for more specifics on levels of filtration. (Hearing it is better then OEM's thin membrane, which it clearly is, vs hard numbers... is an important detail missing form their site (Or else, I did not see it.)).

Will share what I learn when done. And will make adjustments as needed. These filters take up such a small amount of space, when cut to size, and protected in gallon size Ziplock bag - I'll make sure we have some with us as we travel. And will shift out old stock, when the time of replacement from age kicks in. (AS I HOPE TO NEVER NEED TO USE IT UNDER THE COMBO OF FULL FILTRATION AND AGE COMBO!).

----

Finally. Though we left the Eugene area on Wed afternoon at about 2:00PM. Two fell RV'er's at OMC have updated me they went an bought the same 3M Charcoal enhanced heater/AC filter, cut to size, and green/blue taped them their return grill's. And, they too saw the same 5-10 mins cycle of rapid improvement in internal air quality. So, I'm still not alone in my perception on how well this is working.... (And yes, it does reduce the 'air turnover' thru the AC unit. But, the AC unit still works. And at mid 90's, our two 15K Penquin units worked very well... So, not enough reduction in air flow (so far?) to be a factor.

Time will tell on this. And hope to not need it as often as we have since we left Santa Fe now 5-6 weeks ago, to head to the Pacific Northwest!!!

Best to all. Hurricane. Fire. Whatever - HAVE FUN, BE SAFE,
Smitty
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:42 AM   #9
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Agree with the better filtration--factory stuff is poor at best. Many new homes are set up with a source of FILTERED outside air to provide that positive pressure you are seeking--it works very well to keep out allergens/dust/etc.
Thanks for the info on the filter material--been looking at some way to improve it without reducing the flow to the AC.
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Old 09-26-2017, 10:31 AM   #10
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I wanted to update this thread, in case someone might read it to help protect the inside of an RV from fire smoke conditions.

I went with the Charcoal Impregnated Filtration. I do feel this helped on the odor of smoke in the coach, as well as did a far better job of filtration then the standard coach model, or even the RVAIR filter (Which is also far superior then the standard filter of our Penguin 15K unit.). This was the 3M Allergen Defense Odor Reduction filter.

I believe that was probably not the best option available to me. When I looked at the filters available to at 'Jerry's Hardware' also found the 3M Elite Allergen. It does reflect a MPR Filtration rating. (Where a the one I chose above, did not include a MPR Filtration rating on the packaging (At least that I could locate!).

Charcoal Impregnated Filter was 1200, and the Elite Allergen rated MPR 2200, so it had a much higher level of filtration then the charcoal.

Even though I did not see one at Jerry's, I did find the below site that also shows another 3M filter, Ultrafine Particle Reduction, with a rating of MPR 2800.


Air restriction of course is a concern too, so for some units it may be a bit of a test to see what the balance of MPR to AC performance is best. I did note that the Charcoal filter I used, resulted in quite a bit less noise from the return air. That less noise, also yielded less air turnover. I'd swag it as 25-30% less noise.... Which may, or may not, have a direct correlation to air flow turnover. (Suspect it does reduce it, but can't say it reduces it by the same amount that noise is reduced.)

I'm going to buy an Elite Allergen MPR 2200 filter to carry as we travel. Easy to cut and tape to the bottom of the return grill on our AC, and should be easy for any other RV AC's return too. I will cycle this out every two-three years, to keep it with life cycle usage. (Even in the wrapping, filters do age and breakdown by age. They do not have an 'infinite life cycle'.

That's my update. I do feel the best practice, is to just use the wheels and get out of a region with fires and bad air/smoke quality. But, this is a nice and easy countermeasure if ever needed....

Best to all, travel safe, have fun,
Smitty

Comparison site I found:

Compare 3M Filtrete 1" Furnace Filters
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