Fire and Air Conditioners

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In our current Australian landscape, we would like to take a moment to thank the tireless dedication of the fire services of NSW, VIC & QLD. They have gone well above and beyond for our beautiful country over the last 6 months of unprecedented fire conditions.

The volunteers of evacuation centres, pilots, CWA and group organisations who are baking and cutting sandwiches at an unrivalled pace. I take comfort knowing that together we stand united as a country. And while we are experiencing the lowest of lows we also see the power of the people. x.

We have been receiving a number of emails and messages seeking information on how to best manage your cooling needs during smokey conditions. Customers asking how the smoke and ash may impact units. And what can be done to ensure the safety of your air-conditioning while maintaining a comfortable environment.

Here’s some information you may find helpful.

Let’s start with…

How Do Air Conditioners Work?

While die hard lovers of HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), such as myself, love to talk all aspects, there is also another important reason we need to talk about this.

All units are not the same.

  • Evaporative Coolers (the old swampy)
    Hot air is drawn into the unit from the external environment and blown via fan over pads which helps evaporate. Then cool air is dispersed through the air in your internal environment (home or office).

  • Split system units
    While you will see a large unit sitting outside and it is tempting to think it is sucking in external air, this is not the case. Split systems actually draw warm air from within your home or office and take it through the cooling circuit. It is cooled with refrigerant gases and then it pumps cooled air back into your home or office.

  • Ducted Reverse Cycle Systems
    Essentially this is a large scale split system. They work in the same manner to cool your environment but use ductwork to transfer the cool air over a larger area.

Now let’s look at…

Air Conditioning in the bushfire environment

Starting with evaporative units.

As discussed, these units draw the air from the external environment. For effective function they require the windows and doors of your home to be ajar. Usually the width of half the roof vent is optimal.

This may lead to increased entry of smoke into your home environment – not ideal. This means evaporative coolers are not the best cooling to use during bushfire conditions or in smoke-ridden environments or homes/ offices where members may have respiratory issues.

If you need to use an evaporative cooler during smokey conditions due to extreme heat, lack of options etc then please attempt to manage the smoke.

Minimise use to only in the extreme heat of the day and use an air purifier or wet towel and fan blowing through the towel to reduce the smoke. We also suggest wearing a breathing mask and have a discussion with your GP about a respiratory management plan during these periods. Or it may be a good day to consider heading to the movies or your local shops to take advantage of their cooling.

Split Systems & ducted reverse cycle units are the gold standard during these conditions.

Both units require windows and doors to be closed. This decreases smoke from entering the environment. They also circulate air from within your home or office to cool. So, rather than drawing external air these systems actually get rid of warm air from inside.

You may want to consider living in a smaller space where you have the split system located rather than using evaporative during these conditions.


Other cooling options

If air conditioning just isn’t an option, there are always the tried and tested methods of:

  • Wet towel on a fan

  • Minimal light weight clothing

  • Cooling flannel/ face washer on your brow

  • Cold showers

  • Go for a swim

  • Hang out in free cooled environments like movies, shops, and supermarkets.

Down the track

Finally, you may smell smoke through your air conditioning unit in the coming months (once the environment has cleared). This may be due to smoke and/or ash build up within the unit and evaporative pads.

If you do experience this you may need a service and even replacement of the evaporative pads. Simply give us a call. We’ll have a look at your system and let you know what it needs.

From February 2020 to August 2020 BP Air will donate 10% of all evaporative services to Wildlife Victoria and NSW RFS.