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Gardening / Home Improvement

Central Air Cleaner Is Easy to Install

June 16, 1996|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

QUESTION: We need a central air cleaner to help my children's allergies. I would like one that I can install myself. What designs of easy-to-install air cleaners are most effective and efficient?

ANSWER: A central air cleaner (mounted in the blower unit) is the most effective and efficient method to improve indoor air quality and reduce allergies. Because the furnace heating surfaces and cooling coils are kept cleaner, overall system efficiency is higher and heating and cooling output is greater.

Although a typical 99-cent fiberglass filter helps some, most particles pass though it. I have allergies, and I have tested many central air cleaners in my own heat pump. Several of them really relieved my allergies and kept the house nearly dust-free.

There are several designs of effective central air cleaners that you can install yourself without being an expert sheet metal worker. One is a free-standing bypass design, and the other is a thin self-charging electrostatic design. I have used them separately and together.

The bypass design uses a hospital operating room quality filter. This cleans out 99.97% of the particles that cause allergies. It has a small blower motor to force the return duct air through the filter.

It is connected to the existing main return duct by two short pieces of round duct. If you can cut a hole with tin snips, you should be able to install it in one hour. It operates only when the furnace blower runs.

Self-charging electrostatic air cleaners create their own static charge as air moves through them. This small electrical charge, along with the filter media, easily traps particles of typical allergy-causing size.

Choose one treated with activated carbon to reduce odors. Models with antimicrobial coatings kill bacteria and viruses. Other options are a fire-smoke shut-off and a built-in whistle to signal cleaning time.

Most of these filters are 1 inch thick, so they slide into the existing filter slot. Every month, slide it out and squirt it off outdoors with a garden hose or rinse it in your bathtub. They last for many years.

Electronic and pleated media central air cleaners require more extensive sheet metal work for installation (they are thicker), but they clean well.

Electronic models are very effective for small particles like cigarette, wood or cooking smoke particles. Replaceable pleated media filters last up to one year. Clean electronic air cleaner cells monthly in a dishwasher.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 534 showing a buyer's guide of 15 whole-house air cleaner manufacturers, filtration methods, filter efficiency ratings, prices and a chart showing which ones are most effective for various allergies. Please include $2 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope. Send to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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Q: My children are always telling me to use the microwave oven to heat a cup of water for my tea. I prefer to use the tea kettle on the electric range. Which way uses more electricity?

A: A microwave oven uses much less electricity to heat a single cup of water for tea. Most electric range elements are about 1,200 watts or more on high. The most powerful microwave uses about 1,000 watts of electricity.

Even at lower wattage, a microwave can heat a cup of water faster, so the savings is even greater. Almost all of the heat produced by the microwave goes into heating the food. A range loses much of its heat to the kitchen.

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Letters and questions to Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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