Clean Air Rooms

Protect Against Wildfire Smoke by Creating a “Clean Air Room”

Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and Santa Barbara County Public Health Department encourage Santa Barbara County residents to plan for poor air quality conditions caused by future wildfire smoke. Smoke and ash from wildfires contain very small particles known as particulate matter. These particles harm the lungs and heart, and can cause coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, and in severe instances, premature mortality. People with heart or lung disease, seniors, kids, and pregnant women are especially sensitive to smoke.

The best protection against wildfire smoke is to stay indoors as much as possible when smoke is present. In preparation for wildfire smoke, create a “clean air room” at home to ensure that you will have safe indoor air quality. A “clean air room” is a room in your home that you decide will be your clean air space during smoke events. It should be a room, at least one, where you spend a lot of time, such as a bedroom. That “clean air room” will be where you set up an indoor air filtration device, such as a HEPA air purifier or a DIY version of an air purifier. It is also recommended that you take steps to minimize other sources of indoor air pollution in that room, such as avoiding burning candles or cooking. See tips below for purchasing a HEPA device, making a DIY air purifier, and minimizing sources of indoor air pollution. 

See October 4, 2021 KCLU story about ways to keep your indoor air clean during wildfire smoke events

See Wirecutter (New York Times) series regarding reviews of air purifiers and how to choose a device.

Clean Air Rooms Pilot Program

APCD launched the Clean Air Rooms Pilot Program for Guadalupe and Casmalia residents in September 2021. Community events were held at the Guadalupe Dunes Center to give away High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) purifiers on a first-come, first-served basis, limited to one per household with proof of address. Participants also received a tote bag containing bilingual materials about wildfire smoke, air quality information, and air purifiers. For more information about the program, use the links below.

June 2021 Board Meeting

October 2021 Board Meeting

September 2021 News Release: APCD Gives Hundreds of Free Air Purifiers to Guadalupe, Casmalia Residents

  • Pick a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) purifier to reduce particulate matter indoors by 90 percent. These can be purchased at hardware stores or online retailers.
  • Make sure that the device doesn’t create ozone – find a list of safe options online:
  • HEPA purifiers come in various makes and models, suitable for different room sizes.
  • Use the purifier in a room where you spend a lot of time, like a bedroom.
  • HEPA purifiers for an average-sized bedroom cost approximately $75.
  • Check your windows and doors and make sure the room is sealed tightly so smoke from the outdoors does not get pulled inside.
  • Replace the filter as directed in the owner’s manual. Filters need to be replaced more frequently if used during a wildfire.
  • Assembling a DIY version of an air purifier can be a more affordable option, with materials costing approximately $40.
  • This DIY version has been shown to reduce harmful particulate matter indoors similarly to a HEPA purifier.
  • Here’s how to make your own:
  • Use tape to attach a 20×20 MERV-rated air filter — like what you would use for your HVAC system — to the back of a 20×20 box fan. Attaching to the back of the fan creates a better seal.
  • Use a filter with a MERV rating of 13.
  • Check the filter for the direction of the air flow, marked on the side of the filter.
  • Check your windows and doors and make sure the room is sealed tightly so smoke from the outdoors does not get pulled inside.
  • Replace the filter more frequently if used during a wildfire.
  • As needed, disassemble the box fan to wipe away any accumulated dirt.
  • For safety, follow these precautions:
  • Don’t leave the device unattended.
  • Turn off the device while sleeping.
  • When the fan is modified in this way, use the device as an air cleaner, not as fan to cool your home.
  • In addition to using a HEPA air purifier, follow these recommendations:
  • If advised to stay inside, keep windows and doors shut and sealed tightly.
  • If temperatures are high and there is no way to keep the home cool with windows and doors shut, consider temporarily relocating to an area with better air quality until conditions improve.
  • Upgrade your filter in your HVAC system to a MERV filter, with a MERV rating of at least 13. Check with your HVAC professional to see what MERV rating your HVAC system can handle to ensure proper functionality.
  • Do not smoke or burn firewood, candles, or incense in the house.
  • Use your range hood while cooking, especially when using a gas stove.
  • Consider using professional services for a blower door test to detect air leaks. This service can help you know how to properly seal your home.