Cheap Air Purifiers for Allergy Season

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NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT

For many people, spring means finally getting out and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors in full bloom. For others, it's nothing short of "pollengeddon," the season when allergy suffering starts. Unfortunately for those who stay inside because of hay fever or plant spore sensitivity, the quality of indoor air may be even worse. A host of pollutants and allergens such as dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen tracked in from outside can make the air harder to breathe. Enter air purifiers. Despite debates on their efficacy, countless buyers report improvements in the quality of their household air and real relief from some of the discomfort caused by moderate to severe allergy symptoms. Cheapism.com sifted through dozens of expert reports and hundreds of consumer reviews to put together a guide to cheap air purifiers and choose the best models under $60 for small rooms and under $300 for large spaces.

HAMILTON BEACH TRUEAIR COMPACT AIR PURIFIER 04386

A tried-and-true model in the Hamilton Beach TrueAir line, this air purifier (starting at $48) continues to be popular for use in small rooms up to 160 square feet. This simple, space-saving machine can sit upright or horizontally on a desk or nightstand, or even be stowed in luggage to refresh the air in a stale hotel room. Although its filtering technology can't promise to capture some of the smallest particles that might be causing itchy eyes and other allergy symptoms, scores of reviews say it's a whiz at ridding the air of visible dust and certainly does the job on smoke, pet dander, and pollen. The biggest boon of the Hamilton Beach TrueAir Compact Air Purifier: Its permanent filter need never be replaced (in theory), potentially saving hundreds in filter-replacement costs over the years. Consider this if: You're not a severe allergy sufferer and want minimal maintenance paired with long-term savings.

HOLMES HAP242-UC

The Holmes HAP242-UC is ideal for small rooms up to 109 square feet and comes at a rock-bottom price (starting at $36). This basic budget model can be outfitted with any of four different Holmes AER1 filters, each individually designed to focus on dust, odors, overall air quality, or higher level allergen sensitivity. It's also equipped with a separate carbon pre-filter to help with smoke and odor absorption. The rub: All these filter options need regular replacing, whether annually or as often as every four months. Most other air purifiers (with the exception of those with permanent filters or filterless technology) likewise require some recurring outlays, but keep these incremental costs in mind before crowing over the initial low cost of this find. Consider this if: You want pollutant protection personalized to your particular needs.

GERM GUARDIAN AC4020 3-IN-1

GERM GUARDIAN AC4020 3-IN-1 Germ Guardian's products have won raves from experts for combining affordability and functionality, and the company's latest creations add style to the mix. The AC4020 model (starting at $55) is designed to cover small rooms up to 93 square feet, and consumers probably won't find any cheap air purifier that can match the aesthetics of this little speaker-like unit. The Germ Guardian AC4020 3-in-1 merges allergen- and odor-fighting powers in a combined HEPA/charcoal filter and adds UV light technology to kill germs. There's not yet much feedback on this fairly recent addition to the line, but given the company's track record and the success of similar models, consumers should find a lot to like about the AC4020 besides its looks. Consider this if: Germs, filter replacement expenses, and sleek styling top your list of concerns.

WINIX PLASMAWAVE 5300

The Winix PlasmaWave 5300 (starting at $168) takes the tried-and-true air-cleaning combination of HEPA and carbon filters and kicks it into overdrive with patented PlasmaWave technology. This air purifier is designed for both low noise and low energy usage -- it's Energy Star certified -- so users can feel free to just let it run, day or night. With a built-in air-quality sensor, the machine automatically cycles through cleaning modes and is ready to jump into action at the slightest hint of smoke or elevated levels of other indoor pollution. This large-room model is best suited for areas up to 350 square feet. Consider this if: Energy efficiency and a reduced long-term financial commitment capture your attention as much as allergen capture rates.

WHIRLPOOL WHISPURE AP51030K

Known for packing a powerful air-purifying punch, this top pick from the Whirlpool Whispure line sports both a HEPA filter and a carbon pre-filter. Suitable for larger rooms, the Whirlpool Whispure AP51030K (starting at $279) covers areas up to 500 square feet and scores high with experts for its air-scrubbing ability. It features four fan speeds, including turbo and sleep modes. Whereas many air purifiers have a short window of warranty protection, this one boasts a five-year warranty and the testimonies of many satisfied customers who say the models in this line have been working away for years. The only ding on this air purifier is that filter replacement costs can be steep. Consider this if: You're willing to pay a little more for high-performance smoke, dust, and pollen removal from a reliable brand.

AIRFREE ONIX 3000

Consumers won't incur any filter replacement costs with the Airfree Onix 3000 (starting at $266), because it doesn't use filters. Instead, a convection process and high levels of heat incinerate microorganisms drawn from the air. This model claims a large coverage area of up to 650 square feet and the ability to destroy 99.99 percent of mold spores, bacteria, viruses, dust mites, allergens, and other airborne irritants. It doesn't have a fan, so it's absolutely silent. One drawback: It attacks only organic pollutants, so it's not designed to eliminate certain types of odor. Consider this if: You're interested in newer, more "natural" and eco-friendly ways to combat allergens plaguing a larger living space.