Consumer GuidesHeating & Cooling

Clean the Air in Your Home

Studies show that many times, the dirtiest air we breathe is in our own homes. As we walk through the house, the air turbulence created by our moving bodies stirs up a combination of dust and debris that can be very irritating to the lungs.


Human skin particles, pollen, and smoke are all part of this bothersome brew of irritants. The most irritating are dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic creatures that feed on dust-especially flakes of skin. Examined under a microscope, these little critters make Godzilla look friendly.

Household cleaners and pesticides are full of chemicals. People are even bothered by low levels of these compounds. Ironically, indoor air is now recognized as being full of many of the same chemicals we’ve spent so much time reducing outdoors. Another important source of indoor air pollution is dry-cleaned clothes, which emit a number of chemicals that may be harmful.


Fortunately, homeowners these days have a wide range of options that can help them breathe more easily and comfortably in the home.

Reducing and Altering Indoor Chemical Use

Pay close attention to the labels on household products. If possible switch to natural products that contain fewer toxic chemicals. When you do need to use a stronger chemical, use it sparingly and follow all the precautions explained on the label.

Air Out Dry-Cleaned Items

Don’t immediately store dry cleaned items in a closet. Take the plastic off and allow your clothing to air out for a day or two in a space with good air circulation. Then, recover the items with plastic and store them in a closet.

Use More Sophisticated Furnace Filters

The traditional furnace air filter isn’t designed to clean air. Its only function is to keep large particles, like hair and debris, from damaging the furnace blower. These larger particles are rarely the source of human breathing difficulty.

Now there are new, more elaborate filters on the market that trap enough particulate matter to help humans breathe better. In general, the more costly the filter, the more dust it snags out of the airflow. Costing anywhere from $7 to $100, sophisticated filters can pull out up to five times as much dust as traditional filters.

Install an Electronic Air Cleaner

Electronic air cleaners can extract 30 times as much dust as ordinary filters, but they cost a lot more. In fact, a professionally installed air cleaner costs $500 to $700. While this is a substantial amount of money, it’s worth every penny if it offers significant breathing relief to one or more people in your household.

If the price is too steep for you, portable units can be purchased for far less. Of course, the smaller units clean just the air in one room-much like a window air conditioner cools only one room. Electronic air cleaners only need to be cleaned once a year or so because they incinerate the trapped dust.

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