We Researched How to Have Clean Air in Your RV – This is What We Found

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airstream camping in smokey conditions
If you’re anywhere in the western United States right now, it’s hard to escape this year’s record-breaking wildfire season and the blankets of smoke that those fires are sending as far east as New York City. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, wildfire smoke “is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning trees and plants, buildings, and other material.” They share that while wildfire smoke, and the degraded air quality that goes along with it, can make anyone sick, it’s particularly troublesome for those with health complications like asthma, heart disease, and pregnancy. There are even studies that warn about the delayed effect of inhaled smoke on future health.

After years of living on the road, primarily in the west, we are used to dealing with wildfires during peak burn season. We’ve found that the best way to deal with smoke while living in our RV is to leave the area and head to clear skies. This year, those clear skies are over a day’s drive away, and travel during the pandemic is something we are choosing to avoid. So, we decided to learn how to scrub the air inside our RV to shelter our lungs, eyes, sinuses, and the rest of our bodies from the adverse effects of wildfire smoke.

Over the past week, we’ve done a deep-dive into research on how to monitor and improve the quality of indoor air. While there are many options on the market, we narrowed it down by what’s currently available, user reviews, and the advice of friends.

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are machines that work to remove contaminants in the air. These contaminants can include allergens, toxins, pollutants, and other particles. Long touted by those who suffer from allergies and asthma, we decided to order an air purifier to clean the air inside the RV while wildfire smoke swirled outside.

Finding a quality air purifier during the largest wildfire season in history is no small task. And though they are expensive, we decided it was a worthwhile investment for our long term health. As of September 15, 2020, the following air purifiers were in stock on Amazon:

Purifier

Power

Airborne Pollutants

Coverage

Cost

Filter Refills

Reviews

Dyson HP01

50 watts on cool/level 5

99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns

Large room

$399.99

$69.99

78% 5-star

IQAir Desk

3.4 Watts/AC

99% of all particles down to 0.003 microns

150 sq feet

$399.00

$69.00

77% 5-star

IQAir Car

3.4 Watts/DC

99% of all particles down to 0.003 microns

Vehicle interior up to 18.4 times per hour

$399.00

$79.00

70% 5-star

Dyson HP01

The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool HP01 HEPA Air Purifier is the least expensive Dyson unit and includes a heater but not an air quality sensor. It draws 50-60 watts of power on cool mode, and 1500 watts on heat mode. According to a fellow RVer, who has the Dyson Hot Cool Link (which is the same as the HP01 but also sends data to an app), “Run it no higher than speed 5. Otherwise, it just bypasses air and doesn’t filter fully.”

The IQAir [Atem Desk Personal Air Purifier was listed as “in stock” at the time of publication and is made by the same people who publish popular air tracking maps that provide a five-day air quality forecast. We noticed on the comparison chart on Amazon that their Car Air Purifier was better with smoke than the desk purifier. We called customer support for guidance, and they shared that we could use the car filter in the desk model if we wanted to have the desk stand and plug it into a 110-volt AC outlet. However, since most RVs have 12-volt DC outlets, the car purifier might be the better choice.

IQAir Car vs Desk

Air Quality Monitors

In addition to an air purifier, we chose to invest in an air quality monitor. Air quality monitors are used to measure particulate matter, including the fine particles (called PM 2.5) found in wildfire smoke and airborne ash. A 2017 study states that “short-term exposure to wildfire-specific PM 2.5 was associated with risk of respiratory diseases in the elderly population in the Western US during severe smoke days.”

particulate matter

Knowing what is in your air can help you develop a game plan for how to best mitigate it. In addition to particulate matter, some monitors can also detect carbon dioxide (CO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your indoor air. VOCs can cause cancer, damage to the nervous system, and damage to major organs. They are released from burning fuel (such as wood, gasoline, and coal) and many consumer products.

Name

Battery

Watts

2.5 PM

CO2

VOC

Wifi

Price

Availability

Reviews

Awair Element

n

10

y

y

y

y

$149

9/30

68% 5-star

IQAir Air Quality Monitor

y

5

y

y

n

y

$269

In stock

58% 5-star

BIAOLING

y

n/a

y

y

y

n

$129.99

10/5

63% 5-star

Temtop LKC-1000E

y

n/a

y

?

y

n

$89.99

10/22

51% 5-star

Temtop M2000

y

n/a

y

y

y

n

$139.99

10/1

54% 5-star

Respirator Masks

Some days, it’s impossible to avoid going outside despite an unhealthy or hazardous air quality rating. If you must venture outside your camper, the EPA recommends choosing “a ‘particulate respirator’ that has been tested and approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It will have the words ‘NIOSH’ and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it.” 

To dig in a bit deeper, 3M has a fantastic resource that outlines the suggested respirators for the different phases of a wildfire. We chose to purchase the 3M Medium Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 7502/37082(AAD) (which was tested and approved by the NIOSH) and paired it with a 3M Particulate Filter P100. Though we couldn’t find a size chart, we read that even larger heads would be well suited with a medium mask to not let the air escape.

We hope you are safe and finding ways to be healthy during this intense wildfire season.