My severe allergic reactions led to many bad bouts of pneumonia that cost me over half my respiratory capacity and left me unable to handle much dust exposure at all, including house dust. I have four dogs and a busy household that serves as the regular gathering place for our grown children, their friends, and our friends. As a result my home stays filled with constant dust problems. Unable to breathe, I was pretty motivated if not obsessed.
- Trial & Error
We tried just about everything before I finally found a solution that takes care of the airborne dust.
I first upgraded the HVAC filters for my home and put a HEPA grade filter in our house vacuum. Those fine HVAC filters so reduced my HVAC airflow they left my home poorly heated and air conditioned. Not long after my friend who has done my HVAC maintenance for over twenty years gave me a really hard time and made me replace those very fine filters. He explained those fine filters were too small so they quickly clogged and killed the HVAC airflow and because the HVAC fan motor gets it cooling from the air moving over the motor, those fine filters could have ruined my motor and even caused a fire. I would have had to change out all three air returns to fit the required much thicker pleated filters with enough area to avoid the plugging. Then I put in the expensive electrostatic filters my HVAC technician friend recommended. They greatly reduced the visible dust in the home, but my particle counter showed almost zero difference in the fine airborne particle counts.
I then added air cleaners starting with a pair of the Oreck units that were heavily advertised on TV. One of my engineer friends recommended them and he uses four in his own home. They probably would have cleaned up the visible dust had my HVAC electrostatic filters not worked so well, but the pair made no dent in bringing the fine particle counts in my large home down to safe. I then added a pair of the Sharper Image air cleaners that another friend recommended. They also worked well on the larger particles, but my meter showed they captured little fine unhealthy dust. Even with all four running at once they could not even take care of the visible dust when we had our normal group of people and pets. Upkeep on these four units was a pain. The Oreck filters clogged constantly with the same nasty oily black gunk that covered the Sharper Image cleaner electro static plates. Even strong detergents worked poorly at cleaning this gunk off. One of my scientist friends at the Air Quality Board checked and found the black oily gunk was a mix of smog and household grease.
Needing more, I bought an expensive Honeywell large free standing barrel shaped air cleaner with multistage filter including an activated charcoal layer. It looked very impressive and costs lots, but it had the same clogging problems plus my particle counter showed it stirred the air so poorly unless the HVAC was on, it just kept cleaning the same air over and over. In short, just like my big ceiling mounted shop air cleaner, all five air cleaners only provided a false sense of security. My particle counter showed little to no reduction of the unhealthiest invisible dust.
This poor air cleaner performance convinced me to buy a central system that added onto my HVAC. That really expensive system worked poorly and its filters needed cleaned every few days and replaced often. That add on HVAC unit filter was too small so it quickly plugged, its auxiliary blower failed to move enough air, and my particle counter showed this unit passed the fine invisible unhealthiest dust right through. The firm that installed this unit and I went to war. They hated me because with my meter I was not fooled by the lack of visible dust. They insisted my "toy" meter did not work, so I pulled out my recently calibrated and certified Metone Aerocet meter. It showed near identical readings as my Dylos Products Pro meter. Their technician admitted my meters were better than theirs and they finally pulled this system out and refunded my money because their "best" system did not work. This is exactly what I went through with my magazine rated "best" cyclone. It was all a big fraud that removed the visible dust while building the invisible unhealthiest dust to dangerously high levels. That left me on my own trapped in a back bedroom running my small air cleaner with the door shut to keep out the air from my large open space home.
My small air cleaner with fine filter worked and it inspired me to take one of my fine Donaldson Torit large 300 square foot cartridges and put on top of it a strong in-line duct fan. This worked far better in my home. Still, it took a day or more to bring down the particle counts to safe, plus a heavy load of people and pets stirred up the dust faster than it could bring the dust level down. My particle meter again showed this air cleaner kept cleaning the same air unless the HVAC system stirred the air.
Updates This system needed some changes. I flipped the blower upside down so instead of blowing into the filter, it sucks through the filter and blows out a strong stream of air. This let me put a swivel duct on top of the fan to direct that fast moving air stream. When aimed properly this airflow stirred all the air in my home. Even with a full load of people and pets stirring things up this new setup pulled the dust levels down to safe in about three hours then kept the air safe. I was so allergic that just a little dust would cause my nose to run and eyes to water, so that inspired me to upgrade to an even finer Wynn Environmental 230 square foot "Nano" filter. The result worked so well I was able to get rid of my smaller air cleaners. More importantly, as long as I ran this air cleaner I did not have to take the up to six breathing treatments a day to keep my airways open and I was able to finally start reducing my medications.
Still, this did not fix the problem because if I turned off my air cleaner the home immediately went back to dangerously high particle counts. Figuring out what was wrong took lots of particle counter testing. The particle counter showed my ceilings, walls, closets, cabinets and especially carpets were all contaminated. Just about any movement stirred up lots of dust. I had all vacuumed with my HEPA filtered vacuum, all deep cleaned including carpets, and had all walls and ceilings repainted. My air cleaner still had to run all the time. My particle counter showed the problem was my carpets. Even after having them deep cleaned, just walking around on the carpets launched unhealthy amounts of fine dust. Pulling up a corner of carpet showed huge amounts of dust accumulated below the carpet. With no other choice I had all the carpet pulled, everything well cleaned and then replaced almost all our carpet with tile. This finally got my home clean enough that just a few hours of running air cleaner kept my allergy symptoms from returning.
Building one of these air cleaners is easy, but the blower and filter are not cheap. Start with a big Wynn Environmental 13F230 Nano"nano" filter. It sits gasket side down on a large square of tile or other flat surface. It is important that this air cleaner be centrally located so it can stir the most possible air. On top of the filter apply a ring of 3/4" thick 1" wide self adhesive foam insulation. On top of that just set at least a 700 CFM 8" in-line duct fan faced so it sucks through the filter and blows out the top. Inexpensive in-line fans are readily available but I found much better airflow and longer life with a higher quality in-line fan such as the Vortex shown here from Amazon.com. On top of the in-line blower place a swivel duct that lets you aim the airflow for maximum air stirring. In my large home my particle counters show it takes this air cleaner about 3 hours to pull the air down to safe.
Cleaning is also easy. About once a month put on the dual cartridge respirator mask, lift the blower off the filter, slip a big plastic garbage bag over the filter to keep from spreading the accumulated dust on the filter, take the filter outside, then use a air compressor attached long wand or vacuum on blow attached to a right angle fitting. Then just blow from the inside out. I blow my clothes and the outside of the filter off when done.