Whole-house and Portable Filtration

No matter how good a housekeeper you are, it's impossible to eliminate all airborne contaminants. But you can control them with proper ventilation. Make sure the vent fans in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room are working properly; if you don't have any, think about installing them. You can also increase air exchange by putting in an attic fan to suck stale air out and pull fresh outside air in, or investing in an energy recovery ventilator (ERV), a device that uses ducts to distribute fresh air throughout the house.

Whole-house or portable air filters from companies such as Trane, AprilAire, or Carrier are another good option. At the very least, replace the existing flat filter in your forced-air system with a more efficient pleated one. The best ones are are electrostatically charged and can trap allergens like pet dander and pollen, which can pass through conventional filters. More elaborate "media filters" are boxy units containing 8-inch-thick blocks of filtration material. These require professional installation, since ductwork has to be cut to accommodate them. Portable air cleaners with HEPA filters are good for individual rooms. But accord­ing to Offer­mann, all of this air-cleaning technology can only do so much to keep you breathing easy. "If you don't keep your house clean," he says, "even the best filters are pretty much useless."

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