Best Cheap Air Purifiers

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BREATHE EASY

Clean air is no luxury. For people with asthma, allergies, sensitivity to odors, and just about anyone who wakes up in the morning feeling stuffy, the invisible particulates and vapors floating in the air are more than minor irritants. An air purifier can make a world of difference by filtering the air and trapping the pollutants, sending fresh, clean air back into the room and enabling inhabitants to breathe a whole lot easier. Cheapism.com scoured online assessments by experts and consumers to find the best cheap air purifiers -- top-performing models under $250 for large rooms and $100 for small rooms. As bonus picks, we've got an air cleaner for pet owners, a model with "smart" capabilities, and a big-ticket purchase from popular brand Rabbit Air for those willing to splurge on greater cleaning capacity and loads of convenience features.

Prices and availability may vary.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

HAMILTON BEACH TRUE AIR 04386

Good Air Purifier With Permanent Filter
Est. Price: $48 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Permanent HEPA-grade filter can be cleaned with a vacuum; no need to buy replacements.
- Tabletop size; can be positioned vertically or horizontally.
- Good for trapping allergens.
- 3 fan speeds to adjust for lower noise or faster performance.
- Runs very quietly, according to many reviews.

Cons:
- Only 1 level of filtration; no carbon filter to catch irritants from chemicals or grease.
- Some users wish it had a "true" HEPA filter capable of trapping 99.97 percent of airborne irritants as small as 0.3 microns, instead of 99 percent of particles as small as 3 microns.
- Scattered complaints about ineffective performance.
- Short 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: A hefty majority of reviewers cheer the Hamilton Beach True Air 04386 for keeping the air breathable in homes with pets and residents with limited tolerance for pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. Some consider this the best air cleaner they've ever used, and many report that it rids the air of particulates almost noiselessly when set on low. Compact enough to move around the house or take on vacation, it can clear rooms up to 160 square feet. Most reviewers appreciate the easy-clean, money-saving design, with the permanent HEPA-grade filter, although a few feel cheated that it falls a tad short of the "true" HEPA standard.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

HOLMES HAP242-NUC-1

Good Air Purifier for a Small Room
Est. Price: $37 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Very compact, desktop footprint; can be set flat or upright.
- Multi-level filtration: proprietary filter with extra odor-absorbing capacity (carbon, baking soda, and zeolite) as well as a HEPA-type filter.
- Users can upgrade to a variety of specialized Aer1 filters for more concentrated or customized cleaning.
- 3 fan speeds.
- 3-year warranty.

Cons:
- Some users object to the ionizer feature, despite the option to turn it off.
- Scattered claims about ineffective performance, assorted malfunctions, chemical odors, and unacceptably loud noise.

Takeaway: Holmes air purifiers have long earned praise for their excellent value, quickly clearing air of litter box and food odors, hairstyling and garage fumes, particles drifting out of air ducts, pollen, smoke, and more. The desktop Holmes HAP242-NUC-1 is no exception. It's intended for small rooms up to 109 square feet, and scores of users tell of placing it in bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens to great effect. It's also said to be a good air purifier for the office. The HEPA-type filter traps fewer pollutants than a "true" HEPA filter (99 percent of particles as small as 2 microns vs. 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns), but users don't seem to notice the difference. Those wishing for greater cleaning power can easily switch to a higher-grade filter, which also needs replacing less frequently.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

WHIRLPOOL WHISPURE WP500

Good Air Purifier for Large Rooms
Est. Price: $240 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Makes a noticeable difference in air quality almost immediately, reviewers say.
- Air is refreshed 4.8 times an hour in rooms up to a very spacious 490 square feet.
- HEPA filter and active carbon pre-filter for multi-level cleaning.
- Indicator light to signal when the filters need replacing.
- Electronic controls, including a timer and 8-hour sleep mode.
- 4 fan speeds; "turbo" setting.
- Engineered to run quietly; Whispure models are known for hitting less than 50 dB on max speed.
- Energy Star certified.
- 5-year warranty on the motor and 30-day money-back guarantee that it will prove quieter than comparable models.

Cons:
- Only a handful of consumer reviews for this particular model; we relied on reviews of a previous version in making this pick.
- Some disappointment with the build quality of that predecessor, and the 1-year standard warranty is short.

Takeaway: A previous model, the Whirlpool AP51030K, earned plaudits from users and experts alike for its features and performance. It scored points with testing sites for removing common irritants like dust, pollen, and smoke at both high and low speeds, as well as quiet operation. The new Whispure WP500P is said to be quieter still and is Energy Star certified. Based on the few available user reviews, we expect that it will at least meet the standards set by the older model, including removal of 99.97 percent of particulates as small as 0.3 microns, thanks to the HEPA filter.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

GERMGUARDIAN AC4100

Best Personal Air Purifier
Est. Price: $55 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Sleek, modern design that sits flat or stands upright.
- Tiny footprint and incredibly light weight (only about 5 pounds).
- HEPA filter and charcoal and PCO pre-filter are attached for easier removal and cleaning; indicator light reminds users to change the filter.
- Optional UV-C light targets germs, bacteria, viruses, and mold.
- 3 fan speeds to allow for less noise or faster cleaning.

Cons:
- Scattered comments about weak performance and not-so-quiet operation.
- Some reviewers say it's too hard to tell whether the UV-C light is on or off, although others appreciate that it's unobtrusive.
- Short 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: Designed for areas under 100 square feet, the compact GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1 air purifier impresses users with its overall effectiveness and multiple levels of cleaning power. Reviews point to a reduction in allergy and asthma symptoms when used in a bedroom, less dust in a closet that was full of it, and protection against germs floating around an office. Some find the fan a noisy distraction, but others shrug it off as background music -- a fitting description for a unit looks more like a stylish little speaker than an air cleaner.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

GERMGUARDIAN AC4825

Best Air Purifier for Small/Midsize Rooms
Est. Price: $80 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Covers up to 155 square feet, more than a typical small-room air purifier.
- Slim tower profile with a small footprint and recessed handle for portability.
- Multi-level filtration: pre-filter with activated carbon layer and true HEPA filter; filter-change indicator light.
- Optional UV-C light zaps viruses and bacteria.
- 3 fan speeds.
- Energy Star certified.
- 3-year warranty.

Cons:
- Some reports of limited lifespan, chemical odor, and electrical malfunctions.
- Some users complain that the blue UV-C light is too bright and interferes with sleep.

Takeaway: Priced comfortably below $100, the GermGuardian AC4825 easily claims its perch as the company's most popular model. Users with allergies say this air cleaner makes it possible to keep pets. Others commend its stand against cooking odors, mildew, and dust, and praise it for making nighttime breathing much easier. While some are dubious of the UV-C functionality, others swear by it, claiming it's saved them from catching many a viral bug. A few also grouse about the fan noise and minor snafus. But with an average of 4.3 stars from nearly 8,000 user reviews on Amazon, support for this model's value price and overall performance drowns out the critics.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

WINIX 5300-2

Best Air Purifier for Large Rooms
Est. Price: $151 | Buy it from Walmart

Pros:
- Exceptionally strong performer, according to experts and users, especially in reducing particulate levels and pet odors.
- Multi-level filtration: carbon filter, true HEPA filter, and optional "PlasmaWave" stage; filter replacement indicator.
- Electronic controls and digital display with auto dim for nighttime use and multi-setting timer (1, 4, and 8 hours).
- Smart sensors adjust the fan speed to the current conditions, including odors and volatile organic compounds; light on the control panel changes color according to air quality.
- 4 fan speeds, including a sleep mode; can be manually controlled.
- Runs very quietly; manufacturer claims 27.8 dB on the lowest setting.
- Energy Star certified.
- 2-year warranty.

Cons:
- Scattered complaints about limited effectiveness and durability.
- Some disappointment with this updated model compared with the original.

Takeaway: Designed for large rooms up to 390 square feet, the Winix 5300-2 gets lots of love from users. Their reviews tell of eyes that have stopped watering, cooking smells that disappear, and lungs that no longer feel irritated. They say the difference in air quality is immediate and palpable and the amount of gunk that shows up on filters is horrifying. Reviews also laud the rich feature set, which comes at a very reasonable price. To be sure, there are some skeptics who argue that the performance of this updated model is not up to par, but the voices of the majority sing its praises.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

COWAY AP-1512HH

Another Top-Rated Air Purifier for Midsize/Large Rooms
Est. Price: $207 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Praised by users and experts for its cube-like design, quiet operation, and responsiveness to irritants.
- Multi-level filtration: washable pre-filter, carbon filter, true HEPA filter, and optional ionizer.
- 3 fan speeds; auto mode adjusts the speed to the current conditions and eco mode stops the fan when no pollution is detected.
- Timer with 1-, 4-, and 8-hour settings.
- Air-quality and filter-change indicators.
- 3-year warranty.

Cons:
- Some users are wary of the ionizer function, even when switched off, given health concerns raised by experts.
- Scattered reports of limited longevity, odd noises and odors, and negligible effectiveness.

Takeaway: A darling of expert testing sites, the Coway AP-1512HH scores for high-level performance, cost efficiency, portability, and overall value. User reviews tend to concur, crediting this air purifier with reducing headaches, runny noses, scratchy eyes, and asthma symptoms; clearing cooking odors and smoke from forest fires; and even helping pets suffering from allergies. A relative newcomer, the Coway "Mighty" has impressive cleaning ability for its compact size -- it can clear rooms up to 326 square feet -- and has already attracted a following.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

HONEYWELL HPA250B BLUETOOTH

Bonus: Air Purifier With Smart Connectivity
Est. Price: $181 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- User-friendly and effective against odors, reviewers write, with a noticeable difference in the amount of dust and the breathability of the air.
- Can be operated remotely with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
- Auto settings on the app can trigger operation based on specified levels of allergens in the outside air.
- Multi-level filtration: activated carbon pre-filter and true HEPA filter.
- Sensor for auto-on to clear out volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- 4 fan speeds/"purification levels."
- Air is cleaned up to 5 times an hour in spaces up to 310 square feet.
- Customizable on/off schedule; programmable timer for 1 to 18 hours.
- Indicator lights for each filter; dimmer for all LED lights.
- Energy Star certified.
- 5-year warranty.

Cons:
- Some users aren't thrilled with the app, citing a limited proximity range, problems syncing, and functions not working.
- Some grumbling in reviews about excessive noise at higher speeds and a few doubts concerning overall effectiveness.

Takeaway: The big lure of the Honeywell HPA250 is its smart capabilities. Many users like the convenience of the auto features and the ability to create an on/off schedule, all for a relatively modest price. Some contend that the app isn't quite ready for prime time, however. As far as air purification goes, the consensus opinion is that this model does a fine job, and its large coverage area is appreciated. For those skeptical of the smart technology, Honeywell offers non-Bluetooth models with almost identical specs for rooms of different sizes (HPA100, HPA200, and HPA300) that are highly regarded by testing sites.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

GERMGUARDIAN AC5250PT

Bonus: Air Purifier for Pets
Est. Price: $120 | Buy it on Amazon

Pros:
- Rids the air of irritating evidence of pets (both four-footed and flying), including dander, hair, and odors, reviewers say, as well as common airborne irritants.
- Sleek, tower-like profile.
- Multi-level filtration: pre-filter with activated charcoal layer and true HEPA filter with special anti-microbial filter treatment ("Pet Pure") to protect against mold and bacteria; UV-C light.
- 5 speeds, including sleep mode; very quiet on lower speeds, users say.
- Digital display; filter change indicator; timer for up to 8 hours (at 1-hour intervals).
- Energy Star.
- 5-year warranty.

Cons:
- Blue UV light is bothersome at night, according to some users.
- Scattered reports about limited longevity and various malfunctions.

Takeaway: Engineered to meet the needs of pet-filled households, the GermGuardian 3-in-1 Pet Pure suits pet-free homes, as well. Reviews indicate that it helps people who struggle with allergies or snoring, work in rooms without windows, or are plagued by the smell of a neighbor's secondhand smoke -- all while tackling the irritants unleashed by the animal kingdom. Although this model is engineered for small to midsize rooms up to 193 square feet, some users tell of good results in larger spaces.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

RABBIT AIR BIOGS 2.0 SPA-550A

Bonus: Least Expensive Rabbit Air Purifier
Est. Price: $370 | Buy it from Home Depot

Pros:
- Extremely quiet operation (22.8 dB on low).
- Reviewers praise this model's overall air-cleaning ability.
- Powerful enough to clear a 550-square-foot room or even a small studio apartment.
- Multi-stage filtration: pre-filter, charcoal-based activated carbon filter, true HEPA filter, and optional ionizer; filter-life indicator.
- Pre-filter is permanent and can be washed; HEPA and carbon filters are designed to last up to 3 years.
- 5 speeds; auto adjusts to particle and odor irritants.
- Electronic controls with automatic dimming, air-quality indicator lights, and remote.
- Energy Star certified.
- 5-year warranty; 24/7 customer service.

Cons:
- Some skepticism about effectiveness, notably when challenged by odors, secondhand smoke, and pet dander.
- Some pushback regarding the relatively high price tag.

Takeaway: The feature-rich Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0 helps many users breathe easier and sleep better, reviews indicate, regardless whether the pollutants come from industrial emissions, in-home construction, or normal environmental conditions. Many keep it going at all times, counting on the air-quality sensors to signal the fan to increase or decrease speed as needed. With award-winning design and incredibly quiet performance, Rabbit Air products command a premium, but conveniences like the remote control, long-life filters, and energy efficiency help soften the blow of the hefty upfront cost, as does the large coverage area and customer service that several users call simply outstanding.

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