If clean air is a priority, but you’re a bit short on cash we think the Honeywell 50250-S is the best affordable air purifier you can buy. It has a huge HEPA filter, plenty of odor-killing activated carbon, and it cleans a very large space compared to other budget-friendly models.
Honeywell’s 50250-S air purifier would be a great buy even at a slightly higher price. And, that’s exactly why we think it’s the best affordable air purifier. Honeywell packed this model with great features but skipped the premium price tag.
Its 360-degree airflow design accommodates a huge HEPA filter. And a powerful fan makes it a great option for larger spaces (up to 390 Square Feet). To help save a few more bucks, long-lasting true HEPA filters only need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years. While these features are not unique, they are typically found only in more expensive purifiers like the outstanding Austin Air Healthmate.
Honeywell also backs this value-priced powerhouse with a 5-year warranty. And, even better than that the 50520-S gives you a CADR of 250. For more detailed information check out our full review.
Editor’s note: We originally published our affordable air purifier guide in April of 2015. However, we decided it was time to spruce things up and revise it for accuracy, relevance, and in consideration of new products and tech. (Last updated May 17, 2017)
What Can You Do?
It’s probably more than likely that springing for a top-shelf air purifier would mean eating ramen for about three months, and the fumes from the construction crew down the block probably means that saving up is out of the question. You need a quick fix, and there are certainly companies with you in mind.
Of course, there are ways to get a good quality air purifier without sacrificing an arm and a leg. The important thing, in that case, is to keep a few things in mind while you’re shopping around.
What to Look For in an Air Purifier
There are tons of air purifiers on the market, and there are tons of filters to look for, but there is only one that matters: True HEPA. A True HEPA filter, sometimes called “medical-grade HEPA”, is the standard in office buildings, operating rooms, and aircraft, because of its ability to trap 99.97% of particles in the air. This means that allergens like pet dander or dust as small as 0.3 microns are captured in the filter.
There are plenty of companies that try to cash in on the HEPA trend without springing for actual HEPA filters, so be careful of cheap imitations. They’ll have a name like “HEPA-grade” and won’t have the same rating as a True HEPA filter. This might mean they only trap 99% of contaminants in the air, but seeing as most allergens range in size from 0.35 to 2 microns in size, that .97% difference adds up.
We highly recommend looking for air purifiers that come with an activated carbon filter. This is by far the best way to remove odors, chemicals, or harsh fumes from the air. If you live in a smoky environment, or in a city with a lot of cars and industrial fumes, a HEPA filter will not eliminate these sorts of airborne pollutants, and a carbon filter may be what you need. If you see “charcoal” or “carbon” listed in the specifications, that air purifier has an activated carbon filter.
Another way that companies are able to eliminate odors in the air is by putting an ozone generator in their air purifiers. Often called things like “corona generator” or “mountain fresh air”, or they’ll advertise “active oxygen” or something with “oxygen” in the title. [highlight]OZONE IS VERY BAD FOR YOU. [/highlight]
The EPA recommends no more than 0.08 parts per million in the air around you in an eight hour period, and ozone generators can produce as much as 30 parts per million in an hour. Ozone is a hazardous gas and a serious lung irritant, and it should be avoided at all costs!!!
The Clean Air Delivery Rate, or CADR, is an independently rated measurement of an air purifier’s ability to filter the three major pollutants (smoke, dust, and pollen) from the air in a given amount of time. Companies volunteer to test their products, and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) measures every unit in the same standard test. A CADR rating is usually listed as three numbers, like 100/200/300, and they represent the amount of Smoke/Pollen/Dust in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM/CPM) filtered.
Sometimes the CADR will be a single number, which is the average of the three ratings. The higher the number, the better the air purifier.
Along with the CADR, most air purifiers are rated on the amount of square feet they can effectively clean. While some manufacturers advertise a larger number, that number might represent how much space can effectively be cleaned at a rate of two air changes per hour. On the other hand, a low number might have a higher rate of air changes per hour, and while it seems unimportant, a number of times the air in your home is filtered per hour strongly affects the quality of the air in your home.
Of course, if the number is still large when the air is being changed at a rate of five times per hour, it might be unnecessary. For example, if you’re living in a 750-square-foot apartment, you don’t need an air purifier with an area coverage of 1200-square-feet at a rate of 5 changes per hour. This is another way you can cut costs by shopping effectively.
So Which are the Best Inexpensive Air Purifiers?
If you shop online, Amazon.com is a good place to shop for inexpensive air purifiers. There are various brands, and there are almost always consumers willing to tell others looking into a product about their experiences.
Holmes True HEPA Allergen Remover for Medium Rooms
The Holmes True HEPA Allergen Remover is a good example of a cheap air purifier that still has all the features you need. With a True HEPA filter, 99.97% of the pollutants in the air will be captured by this unit, and with an enhanced carbon filter, the odors in your home will be greatly reduced. Of course, even if the air purifier itself is inexpensive, be sure to look into the cost of replacement filters.
- True HEPA filter cleans 99.97% of household allergens
- Enhanced Carbon filter for safe odor removal
- Has not been rated by AHAM for a CADR
- Replacement filters can get expensive
Honeywell Long-Life Air Purifier
The Honeywell Long-Life Pure HEPA QuietCare Air Purifier advertises a True HEPA filter as well as a 168-square-foot area coverage to offer you plenty of clean air as inexpensively as possible. There is no carbon filter, and it is only good for countries that use 120-volt electricity.
- True HEPA filter
- 168 sq. ft. area coverage
- Permanent HEPA filter
- Five-year warranty
- CADR is only 130
- Newer models have been known to produce a “burning smell”
- Some users complain that the unit has a distinct plastic odor
GermGuardian AC4825 a Good Low-Cost Air Purifier
The GermGuardian AC4825 is one of GermGuardian’s least expensive models. It advertises a True HEPA filter, activated carbon to reduce odors, and an ultraviolet light bulb to eliminate germs, mold spores, viruses, and bacteria in the air. At 22 inches tall, this model is perfect for small- or medium-sized rooms. Check out the detailed GermGuardian AC4825 air purifier review.
- True HEPA filter
- Activated carbon filter
- UV-C light
- Area Coverage of 155 sq. ft.
- CADR is only 100+
- Some users report a “burning plastic” smell
- Replacement filters can get expensive
Overall, the best affordable air purifier will vary from person to person. Some people are going to value the smell of their home over any other features. Other people seek out an air purifier packed with as much technology as possible. Whichever way you want to go from the options on this list, among the best inexpensive air purifiers is the Honeywell 50250-S.
If these are still too pricey check out our guide to ultra affordable purifiers.