'Allergy-Safe' Vacuum Cleaners Worthwhile

QUESTION: I don't have allergies, but I want a super-high-filtration "allergy-safe" vacuum cleaner to cut down on dust. How are they different and do the filters require more a powerful, electricity-guzzling motor?

ANSWER: True "allergy-safe" vacuum cleaners have more than just a better bag. The best ones have multiple high-efficiency filters and seals to eliminate leaks of allergens (allergy-causing dust) back into your room. Even if you don't have allergies, these vacuum cleaners are worthwhile.

The first time you use one of these vacuum cleaners, you will be amazed by the lack of that "just vacuumed" smell. The room actually smells fresher than before you vacuumed because the air coming out of the vacuum cleaner is more pure than the air going in.

I have allergies myself and I use an allergy-safe vacuum cleaner. In addition to stopping my sneezing, the first bag was full after just two weeks. It picked up more dirt in two weeks than my other vacuum did in two months.

There are two keys to allergy-safe vacuuming. First, the vacuum cleaner must be very powerful to deep clean and pick up the dirt, dander, mold, pollen, dust mites, etc. It must also highly filter the return air so the allergens don't blow out again into your room.

The cleaning power of a vacuum cleaner is measured by the suction (inches of water lift) and the volume of air flow (cubic feet per minute or cfm). The most powerful allergy vacuums have a suction of 85 inches and an air flow of 100 cfm. Most allergy-safe vacuum cleaners use a canister design with a power nozzle (beater bar and brush) for carpeting.

There are several effective designs for keeping the dirt and allergens inside the vacuum cleaner. One design use a double wall, 28-layer cellulose filter bag, a charcoal filter and a final fiberglass or HEPA filter. A light-gauge metal or reinforced plastic housing stay rigid for a long-term seal.

A rapidly spinning (cyclonic) flow of dirty air inside the filter bag helps to separate the dirt particles. They also hit the filter bag pores at an angle. This makes it more effective at trapping them inside. One design has 3,500 air tiny holes in the metal canister for the filter bag. This makes more effective use of the entire filtering surface of the bag.

The motors in allergy-safe vacuum cleaners are more powerful, up to 9 amps, than a standard model. (Don't be fooled by the marketing hype of 3 or 4 "peak" horsepower motors.) Considering the few hours that a vacuum cleaner is used, the extra electricity used by an allergy-safe model is insignificant.

You can write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 438 showing a buyer's guide list of allergy-safe vacuum cleaner manufacturers, cleaning power (water lift and air flow), types of filters, prices and a chart showing sizes of common allergen particles and the most effective filters. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope. Send your requests to James Dulley, c/o Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

Trick to Keeping Door Just Slightly Ajar

Q: I leave a door to an unheated room open a little for my cat to get to his food and litter box. The door gradually swings open all the way and wastes heat. What can I do to keep it in position?

A: Since you have to go in and out of the room often, you still want the door to operate smoothly. One simple no-cost trick I have used is to remove the bottom hinge pin.

Hit it with a big hammer to bow it slightly. Grease it and drive it back into the hinge. This provides just enough drag to keep the door from swinging open by itself, yet you can still open it easily.

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