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The Basics: Air Purifiers

The air in our homes is important for good health and a number of factors can determine overall quality. During the heating season, for example, household air tends to be dry, the end result being a dry throat. Conversely, during the warmer months, air in the home tends to be laden with moisture, thus feeling warmer. Internal air can also contain a variety of airborne particles--from pets, carpeting, furnishings, and smoking--and breathing this air can cause respiratory problems. There are a variety of appliances designed to improve the quality of household air. These include humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air filters.

If, during the heating season, you walk across a carpeted room and get a static electricity shock when you touch a doorknob or light switch, or you wake up with a dry, sore throat, you should consider increasing the humidity of your home. The two humidifiers we review are table-top units that are portable and simple to use. Either unit can be used in one room during the day and in a bedroom at night. Both units have replaceable filters to trap airborne particles and odors.

Dehumidifiers are not just for keeping a basement dry year-round. In the summer, they can help keep your house cool by reducing the amount of moisture in the air. The unit we cover is a stand-alone unit that runs quietly and can be centrally located in the home.

Air filters come in a variety of sizes, capacities, and styles. The three models we cover have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that remove the smallest of pollutants and pollen from the air. HEPA filters remove more 99% of all small particles in the air. If you have asthma, allergies, or respiratory problems, a unit equipped with a HEPA filter might help you to breathe easier. Because they filter large amounts or air, all air filters tend to be noisy, especially on a high setting. For this reason, you might want to locate your air filter in a corner of a room, rather than in the center. All units reviewed here are portable.