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If you think breathing the hot summer air is bad for you, consider this: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the quality of indoor air can be up to five times worse.

Luckily, you can improve the quality of your home’s air, a move that will help your family breathe easier, especially if anyone has allergies or asthma.

Here are four devices that can help:

  1. A good air filter. Toss that cheap, spun-fiberglass air conditioner filter in the trash. It won’t prevent dust, dirt, pollen, pet dander, mold spores and bacteria from getting into your air conditioning system and flying around in the air your family breathes. Upgrade to a one-inch, pleated air filter that costs around $5. It looks like cloth on the outside, but the pleats contain fibers that catch at least some of the allergy-causing smoke and dust before your air conditioning system can suck it in and recirculate it. At the same time, the pleated filter allows enough air to get through so your system can operate properly. Change it every month, even if the instructions on the package say you can use it for 90 days. Our dry, dusty air can clog a filter quicker than in the milder areas those directions were written for.
  2. A high-efficiency filter. This five-inch-thick, $60 filter is a good investment, especially if you’re replacing your air conditioning system this year. It needs changing only once a year. High-efficiency filters don’t fit every air conditioning system, so don’t buy one on your own. Consult with a pro, who can install it for you if it looks like it’s compatible with your home.
  3. A single-room HEPA air cleaner. Before you buy one, do some comparison shopping, not only for price, but for quality. Some of these devices have been banned by Consumer Reports and others. Likewise, some single-room ionizing devices are no more effective that those throwaway fiberglass filters.
  4. An electronic, whole-house air cleaner that attaches to your central air conditioning and heating system and filters the air in every room as your system cools it off. Electronic air cleaners electronically charge airborne particles and trap them like a magnet so they don’t drift through the air your family breathes.   Whole-house air cleaners range in price from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,500, and you generally get more quality as the price goes up. Manufacturers of the latest generation of products claim they capture up to 99 percent of some allergens.

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