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Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006 11:38 pm

Choosing the best air cleaner

Don’t rely on price as an indication of effectiveness

At low speed, this four-speed HEPA air cleaner makes almost no noise
Photo by James Dulley
I need to get a room air cleaner for my son’s allergies. I see advertisements on television for expensive ones with no fans and others called “HEPA.” How can I tell which air cleaner is the best?

A huge array of various room-air-cleaner designs and styles is available. Unlike the case with most home products, you cannot use the price of a air cleaner as an indication of its effectiveness. Also, even though some of the flashy television advertisements for air cleaners are long on claims, the products are short on actual performance and specifications.

One of the best ways to assess the usefulness of an air cleaner is to check its clean-air delivery rate (CADR). This rating indicates the effectiveness of a room air cleaner as determined by testing per the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. CADR is recognized as the standard by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association.

The CADR rating, if the manufacturer had its products tested, should be listed on the packaging. You will see three numbers, referring to household dust, tobacco smoke, and pollen pollutants. Even though there are other pollutants in a home, such as mold and pet dander, the range of sizes of the former three pretty well runs the gamut.

The CADR number can range from less than 50 for a small air cleaner to more than 300 for a large, effective one. Some air cleaners are better at removing smoke, whereas others are more effective in clearing pollen. For this reason, talk with your allergist to determine which allergens your son is allergic to before buying a cleaner.

For effective air cleaning, AHAM recommends that the CADR of a room air cleaner be two-thirds of the square footage of the room. For example, if your son’s bedroom is 10 by 12 feet and your son is allergic to pollen, select an air cleaner with a pollen CADR of at least 80. You can also select one with a higher CADR to clean the air faster, but it will likely cost more and use more electricity.

I use HEPA room air cleaners in my bedroom. You have to change the HEPA and carbon (odor-reducing) filters periodically, but they are effective and reasonably quiet. Be sure to get a true HEPA model, which removes 99.97 percent of all particles 0.3 microns or larger.

Another effective design incorporates electrostatic precipitator technology with a circulation fan. This gives the air one charge and a collection plate the opposite charge so that particles stick to it. These models often include a wire-mesh prefilter to capture large particles. Both the prefilter and collection plates are periodically removed and washed. I use one near my corn stove during the winter.

These companies offer room-air cleaners: Blueair, 888-258-3247; Cloud 9, 630-595-5000, www.4cloud9.com; Essick Air Products, 800-826-2665, www.essickair.com; Kaz, 800-477-0457, www.kaz.com; and LakeAir, 800-558-9436, www.lakeair.com.

I have many cordless tools, but I don’t do many projects at home. Each time I get a tool out to use, the batteries are almost dead, even though I charged them months before. What is wrong with them?

There is nothing wrong with the batteries. Nicad (nickel-cadmium) batteries lose their charge over time when they’re not in use. Some also have a memory, so they must be fully discharged before being recharged. Because you don’t use the cordless tools often, consider using corded tools. This will save time and energy. If you charge the batteries and then let them discharge from little use, you are just wasting electricity.

Send questions to James Dulley, Illinois Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or go to www.dulley.com.

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