We all want to do everything we can to ensure that the air we breathe in our homes and office environments is clean and healthy. Luckily, there are now dozens of consumer products now on the market that work to filter air and reduce the presence of indoor pollutants. These air cleaners may be purchased as portable units that fit easily you're your living space, or in the form of in-duct systems to be installed as part of your HVAC system (the industry abbreviation for your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system).

With such different types and so many products available for us to choose from, how to decide which is best? Let's take a look at the basic categories of air filtering devices and what each group offers:

HEPA Filters

HEPA stands for "high efficiency particulate air," and a HEPA filter is basically a sieve that collects offensive particles so they won't circulate in the air. HEPA filters are highly effective, trapping nearly one hundred percent (99.97%) of pollutants down to a size of .3 microns (to give you a sense of scale, a human hair is about 70 microns in diameter).

These filters are so good at cleaning air that they are often considered the most efficient of all filtration units. But don't rush out to buy one yet-there are a few important factors to consider. HEPA filters need to be replaced frequently, which makes sense when you consider that they function by trapping contaminants. Depending on the cost of filters and the frequency with which you need to change your particular model, this can be an expensive choice. Moreover, HEPA filters are good at cleaning the air merv 13 small spaces, but they are not a home-wide solution. Of course you could place a filter in each room, but this may not be practical.

Still, if you want a great bang for your buck, HEPA filters are a terrific choice and very, very effective. Just keep the above considerations in mind when choosing one (or several) portable filter units for your home.

Pleated Filters

These may also be called "media" filters. They are similar to HEPA filters but are pleated, or folded, with the result that they are substantially less effective. A pleated filter will trap as little as half the particles as a HEPA filter, but it will do well with containing larger particles. So, for example, if your main problem is dust, this may be a good choice for you.

Electrostatic/Electronic Cleaners

Whereas HEPA filters physically block and remove pollutants, requiring replacement of filters, electrostatic or electronic cleaners work in a slightly different way. These units contain electronically charged plates that impart an ionic charge to floating air particles, causing them to be attracted to the plates (remember high school science class?) and forced through what is known as foam pre-filter.