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Super-strong vaccums can alleviate allergies, pick up 99.97% of particles

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Dear Jim: My kids have allergies and I want to try a new allergy-safe vacuum cleaner. I can smell the dust in the air now after I vacuum. Do these super-powerful vacuums cost a fortune to operate?

- Judy W.

Dear Judy: Some of the super-powerful, microfiltration vacuum cleaners do help alleviate common allergies. I have used several models in my own home and it has made a difference in my allergies. One powerful design even looks like Star Wars R2D2, so your kids may want to vacuum, too.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently investigated the ill health effects of microscopic indoor air particles. These are inhaled and lodge deeply in the lung tissues. Household dust and carbon dust from vacuum cleaner motors are of particular concern.

Within the past couple of years, there have been many vacuum cleaners touted by their manufacturers as being "allergy-safe,"

"microfiltration," "HEPA," "HEPA-like," etc. Some are effective and some are not. With the best models, the telltale just vacuumed smell is totally eliminated.

An effective allergy-safe vacuum cleaner must do three things: be very powerful to draw up all dirt and allergens, have an effective filtering system to remove these particles and be airtight throughout to make sure that the smallest particles do not leak back out into the room.

Don't pay attention to marketing hype like "Peak Horsepower." The deep cleaning power of a vacuum is determined by the suction and, more important, air flow rate (in cubic feet per minute - cfm). Canister designs are most powerful with air flow rates as high as 125 cfm.

Even though these models have very powerful motors, they deep clean so well, you have to vacuum less often and you will save electricity overall.

There are many designs of vacuum filtering systems. The best designs use a series of filters and air flow patterns inside the vacuum cleaner. True HEPA (high efficiency particle air) filters meet rigid testing standards.

These remove 99.97% of particles as small as 1/300th the diameter of a human hair. Some "HEPA-like" filters are effective too, but you must rely on the manufacturers' judgment, not certified test results. Many of the best designs use a true HEPA exhaust filter to stop motor brush dust, too.

Some features to consider are variable or multistep adjustable power for cleaning drapes, rugs, etc. A large bag, some up to 14 quarts, requires fewer dusty bag changes. If you have a two-story house, consider the weight of the unit. An optional charcoal filter can help reduce odors.

Write for (or instant download - www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 550 - buyer's guide of 11 true HEPA and HEPA-like allergy-safe vacuum cleaners, cleaning power, filtration methods, bag size, features, weights and prices. Please include $3 and business-size SAE.

James Dulley, Newspaper Name, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244

Dear Jim: Our concrete garage floor has shifted over the years, and the garage door rests on a high spot. This leaves a gap at the middle for insects and mice to get in. How can I fix this?

- Julia H.

Dear Julia: A leaky garage door not only lets insects in during summer, but also energy robbing air leaks in the winter, especially if it faces northwest. This chills the garage walls common to your living areas.

The easiest method to seal a garage door is to install a replacement rubber astragal (seal at the bottom). Most slide in an aluminum strip that you screw to the bottom of the door. These kits cost about $2 to $3 per foot.