Cheap Air Purifiers
Consumers spend between $250 and $350 million a year on air quality improvement devices, from cheap air purifiers to pricey ones. Approximately one in four households owns one type or another. The major players in the air purifier market are some of the same companies that hold sway in the appliance market, such as Whirlpool and Honeywell. Many of the better models, including cheap air purifiers, are made by specialty companies like Hunter, Holmes, and RabbitAir.
Holmes HEPA-Type HAP242-UC
(Small Room) The Holmes HAP242-UC is designed for a maximum 109 square feet, features a baking-soda enhanced HEPA-type filter, three speeds, an optional ionizer, and a smoke CADR of 70; it can be placed vertically or horizontally. This is a good entry-level choice that appeals in part because of its cheap price.
Whirlpool Whispure 450
(Large Room) The Whispure cleans the air in areas up to 500 square feet and boasts a HEPA filter, carbon filter, and a permanent pre-filter; its smoke CADR of 317 is the highest of any air purifier on our list. It features three fan speeds and is Energy Star Qualified. Users particularly like the quiet operation and odor absorption.
(Small Room) The Hunter 30057 includes HEPA filters that are costly at replacement time but the unit itself is quite durable. It is intended for a 12x12 room and has a smoke CADR of 101 and an air exchange rate up to six times an hour. The unit is popular among pet owners who report relief from allergy symptoms. It also features a washable carbon pre-filter, a separate ionizer, and three fan speeds.
AirFree Onix 3000
(Large Room) The Onix 3000 could be the next big thing in cheap air purifiers. Its proprietary ceramic core technology destroys micro-organisms with ultra-high heat before returning cooled air into the room; the air is exchanged twice an hour. This no-fuss model dispenses with filters and collector plates, and the absence of a fan makes for silent operation. It features a small blue light that some users find annoying, but is otherwise praised for alleviating runny noses, sinus problems, and mold spores.
Sharper Image Ionic Breeze 3.0
(Small Room) The Ionic Breeze costs more up front but very little in the long-run because there's no filter to change on this electronic ionizer. It uses minimal energy, runs silently, and is designed for rooms up to 270 square feet. Although many users report relief from symptoms caused by dust, pollen, and dander, there is some controversy about the health effects of the small amounts of ozone produced by this type of air purifier.
Oreck XL Tabletop Professional
(Large Room) Oreck is known for its vacuum cleaners but the XL Tabletop Professional falls short of the company's usual standards. Users complain this ionic room air purifier breaks down, is noisy, and doesn't clean air. And, compared to other large-room purifiers, it's a bit pricey, which makes the deficiencies all the more irritating.
Cheap Air Purifiers Buying Guide
The biggest factor affecting the price of an air purifier is the amount of square footage it's designed to cover. An air purifier meant for 150 square feet will always be cheaper than an air purifier meant for 550 square feet, regardless of features or performance.
If you're just beginning your search for a cheap air purifier, the first step is identifying the air quality issue you want to address. Common irritants include smoke, dust, pet dander, pollen, mold, cooking and perfume odors, and chemicals and gases. Some cheap air purifiers focus more on particulates than on odors or gases, or vice versa. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dedicates an entire section of its website to the topic of indoor air quality and discusses the performance characteristics of different types of air purifiers. Note that the EPA does not endorse any brand or any type of air purifier, and bluntly advises that air purifiers be only part of an air treatment plan that includes controlling the source of the pollutants and improving the ventilation.
In fact, unless you live next to an incinerator, the air outside is probably cleaner than the air inside. And if you or anyone in the household has allergies or trouble breathing, even the best air purifier is unlikely to solve your problems. No air purifier currently on the market makes any health claims whatsoever; promotional materials only refer to the quality of the air. So if you see a claim along the lines of, "Improves lung capacity by 50 percent," you should automatically rule out that product.
Once you identify what's causing the poor air quality in your home or office and have done your best to control the source of the problem and increase the ventilation, you have to decide which type of cheap air purifier will complement your overall line of attack. Our list of top picks includes air cleaners with HEPA filters, carbon filters, ionizers, and ceramic cores, all of which deal with different types of contaminants in different ways.