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3 Best Cheap Air Purifiers (And 2 to Avoid)

Last updated December 1, 2022

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Author
Author avatar Danny Ashton

Danny as been writing about air purifiers for 10+ years. He is a major fan of home technology, which makes him the perfect person to test and evaluate products for HouseFresh

Air purifiers used to be seen as a nice gadget for those who could afford them. But after Covid-19, they are now seen as an essential part of our fight against airborne diseases. Combined with improved ventilation and masks, air purifiers can help to keep rooms clean of viruses and particles that cause damage to our health. 

We review many different air purifiers here at HouseFresh and we understand that many customers are looking for an air purifier that blends into their home decor and cleans the air and are happy to pay a premium for brands like IQAir or a well-designed unit like Dyson combo series

But we are often asked what air purifiers give the best bang for your buck when you are just looking at cleaning power to $ spent. The great news is that we have the data to be confident about which air purifiers on the market as of Autumn 2022 have the best air purifiers for the amount of money spent initially and long-term in electricity costs. 

The one thing worth mentioning is that when you are on a budget, the best way to get the best cleaning power is to use multiple units vs. just one. The great thing is that you can quickly work out the cleaning power of multiple units as you add them together, so if your unit has a CADR of 150 CFM, then two of the units working together will have a CADR of 300 CFM. 

You will still need to replace the filters but even when accounting for buying two sets of filters, the units on our recommended list still work out much cheaper than the larger units on the market, both in the short and long term. This is great news for those with huge spaces like school halls that larger units would have trouble cleaning, but six smaller units working together can make light work of it. 

As always, this list is based on our testing of the units in our home lab, where we compare all units regardless of technology or size to provide an objective review for potential air purifier owners. 

The Top 3 Air Purifiers For Those On a Budget

Model
Best Overall
Best Budget Option
Best for Large Design
Style
Taotronics AP003
Leovit Core 300
IKEA FÖRNUFTIG
Pros
Best air purifier for $ spend that currently exists
Our top pick from 2021. It looks great and performs well for the price
Looks good and has the choice of HEPA and activated charcoal instead of just one filter for each
Cons
Sometimes hard to find on Amazon
AP-003 offers more value now with more power per $ spent
Simplistic design with no extras like timers or sleep mode
CADR
226 CFM / 384 m³/h
145 CFM / 246 m³/h
70 CFM / 119 m³/h
Filter Technology
Air Inlet Grille, Washable Pre-Filter and 3-Stage H13 True HEPA Filter
Pre-Filter, H13 True HEPA Filter, High-Efficiency Activated Carbon Filter
Pre-Filter, HEPA Filter and Carbon Filter
Recommended Room Size
322 ft²
219 ft² to 547 ft²
85 ft² to 105 ft²
Weight
8.6 kg / 19 lbs
3.4 kg / 7.48 lbs
3.04 kg / 6.7 lbs
Price
$59.99
Price not available
$74.99
Best Overall
Style
Taotronics AP003
Pros
Best air purifier for $ spend that currently exists
Cons
Sometimes hard to find on Amazon
CADR
226 CFM / 384 m³/h
Filter Technology
Air Inlet Grille, Washable Pre-Filter and 3-Stage H13 True HEPA Filter
Recommended Room Size
322 ft²
Weight
8.6 kg / 19 lbs
Price
$59.99
More Details
Best Budget Option
Style
Leovit Core 300
Pros
Our top pick from 2021. It looks great and performs well for the price
Cons
AP-003 offers more value now with more power per $ spent
CADR
145 CFM / 246 m³/h
Filter Technology
Pre-Filter, H13 True HEPA Filter, High-Efficiency Activated Carbon Filter
Recommended Room Size
219 ft² to 547 ft²
Weight
3.4 kg / 7.48 lbs
Price
Price not available
More Details
Best for Large Design
Style
IKEA FÖRNUFTIG
Pros
Looks good and has the choice of HEPA and activated charcoal instead of just one filter for each
Cons
Simplistic design with no extras like timers or sleep mode
CADR
70 CFM / 119 m³/h
Filter Technology
Pre-Filter, HEPA Filter and Carbon Filter
Recommended Room Size
85 ft² to 105 ft²
Weight
3.04 kg / 6.7 lbs
Price
$74.99
More Details

We made sure only to include air purifiers that are a maximum of $99 – our top pick, the Taotronics AP003, is available for less than $80. The cheapest filter award goes to IKEA with their fairly large HEPA filter is $11.99. We still think the Levoit Core 300 is a solid budget unit but have pushed it down to our number 2 recommendation for this year.

Check out our in-depth review of each unit below: 

1. Taotronics AP003

The Taotronics AP003 is a major game changer in the world of budget air purifiers. Sold directly it goes for $79.99 and has a CADR of 384 m³/h/226 CFM, which is similar to the Coway AP-1512 and Winix 5300 both of which cost nearly $200. 

With a CADR cost of 35 cents per 1 CFM, this is the ultimate budget air purifier as of Autumn 2022. In comparison, our budget air purifier winner of 2021 was the Levoit Core 300, which had a CADR cost of 68 cents for 1 CFM, so this is nearly twice as cheap.

When we tested this unit in our home lab, we found that it could remove all pollutants in 29 minutes which matches the manufacturer’s CADR results. In comparison, this is better than the 33 minutes we saw with the Levoit Core 400S that is $219.

The cherry on top for the budget unit is that it also comes with an onboard sensor that gives the exact pollutant levels for PM2.5 and PM10 – we usually see such extras on units that cost upwards of $300. 

I’m not sure how Taotronics made such a great unit at such a low price, but as a consumer, I’m not complaining, and I’m sure the other air purifier manufacturers will need to up their game next year.

SPECS & FEATURES

Purifier technology:H13 HEPA with activated carbon pellets
CADR (CFM / m³/h):384 m³/h/226 CFM
Recommended room size:Up to 322 sq. ft/30 m²
Filter life:3-6 months
Noise level (low – high):≤32dB – 52dB
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):21.8 x 14.1 x 7.9in / 554 x 358 x 200mm
Weight (in pounds / in kg):18 lbs / 8.16 kg
Energy consumption:$61.26 per year
Time to clean our test room29 minutes

What We Really Like:

👍 Best price per CADR CFM on the market
👍 Filter costs are at the lower end when compared to similar-sized units
👍 Super efficient power usage, we saw a max draw of 29.2 watts
👍 The high-quality screen for the onboard particle sensor that also changes color based on current level of pollutants

What We Think Could Be Better:

👎 It’s not easily available on Amazon after the parent company was kicked off for paying for reviews
👎 The brand is still new so still a lot of brand loyalty to be built with consumers

2. IKEA FÖRNUFTIG

Another name that I’m not 100% sure how you say, but I’m glad to report that this air purifier from IKEA is the real deal. 

Many manufacturers in the air purifier space like to say how complex the process is for cleaning air but this model from IKEA shows that it’s as simple as a good fan combined with a HEPA and activated carbon filter

With a CADR cost of 57 cents per CFM, it can’t beat our top unit, but one thing I like about this air purifier is the meager cost of the filters. The HEPA filters can be found for $11.99 and the activated charcoal filters which use pellets are $21.99. They are all available online but also in-store, so the next time you are visiting for some Swedish meatballs you can pick up some spare air filters. 

As you would expect with a gadget from IKEA, this air purifier has no bells or whistles. It just has one wheel to change speed and no air quality sensor on the device. 

It doesn’t look like an air purifier, which might be a plus point for many — it could easily be hidden away in a living room without attracting too much attention. Overall, it’s a great budget device but the lack of features and overall costs means it doesn’t make our top spot.

SPECS & FEATURES

Purifier technology:Pre-Filter, HEPA Filter and Carbon Filter
CADR (CFM / m³/h):70 CFM (highest fan speed), 11 CFM (lowest fan speed)
Recommended room size:85 -105 square feet, depending on which fan speed the air purifier is set to
Filter life:6 months
Noise level (low – high):28 dB – 60 dB (with both particle filter and gas filter installed)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):4D x 18H x 12W inches
Weight (in pounds / in kg):6.7 lbs / 3.04 kg
Energy consumption:Maximum wattage is 14 watts (with both particle filter and gas filter installed)
Time to clean our test room61 minutes

What We Really Like:

👍 IKEA design means that it doesn’t look like an air purifier
👍 Two separate filters so less cost if you don’t need odor or VOC cleaning
👍 It’s super efficient with power use, we saw a max draw of 14.7 watts
👍 Great price per CADR CFM

What We Think Could Be Better:

👎 Have to buy either from IKEA online or in-store – no other options
👎 Lack of on-board sensor or any smart features

3. Levoit Core 300

Our previous winner from 2021, the Levoit Core 300 changed the budget air purifier game forever when it arrived on the scene. 

Back in the day, budget air purifiers were essentially useless or worse with ionizers that could actively make your home air worse. Levoit brought to market an air purifier capable of 145 CFM  for $99.99. Previously you could get 100 CFM with the Honeywell HP100, but now you could get 1 CFM for 68 cents. 

Keeping air clean no longer needed large costly devices that were outside the budget range for most American households.

SPECS & FEATURES

Purifier technology:H13 (Medical) Grade HEPA and Activated Charcoal
CADR (CFM / m³/h):145 CFM / 246 m3/h
Recommended room size:219 ft² to 547 ft² 
Filter life:Every 6 – 8 months
Noise level (low – high):24 dB – 50 dB
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):8.7L x 8.7W x 14.2H inches / 22 x 22 x 36 cm
Weight (in pounds / in kg):3.9 kg / 8.6 lbs
Energy consumption:$97.76 per year
Time to clean our test room40 minutes

What We Really Like:

👍 Second-best value for cleaning power per $ spent
👍 H13 filters combined with activated charcoal pellets are much better than the impregnated fabric you sometimes see at this low price point
👍 Small design that doesn’t have too big a floor footprint
👍 App support and auto-mode with 300S, while the 300 is an option for those who like me prefer to pay less for not having it

What We Think Could Be Better:

👎 The original 300 had a power draw of 45 watts which is now very high for this level of cleaning power
👎 Was the best option in 2021 but in 2022 we would recommend the Taotronics AP-003 over this one due to $ price of 35 cents CFM vs this unit with 68 cents

🙋🏻‍♀️ Why is the Levoit Core 300 not the number one option anymore?

Nothing changed with our long-term usage report for this air purifier, it performed well both in our lab tests and when used in our own home. What changed was the competition — the Taotronics TT-AP003 turned up and provided 29 minutes of cleaning power for less than $80! For so many years, we had a total lack of air purification technologies and lots of useless marketing junk, and now we have a large efficiency increase in less than a year.

When we tested it, it was able to remove all pollutants from our test room in 40 minutes which was 3 minutes less than the $150 Medify-25 and at the time the best air purifier you could get for $ spent.

On its own, it’s big enough for a small bedroom, but two get interesting as you get 290 CFM for $200, which as a pure HEPA and activated charcoal unit is $20 less than the Honeywell HP300 with the benefit of two devices for long-term usage. If budget is less of a concern, we put what we think are the best air purifiers in 2022 for a range of different budgets.

The Two Budget Air Purifiers We Don’t Recommend

We test many air purifiers here at HouseFresh and whilst we are continually looking for units like the Taotronics AP-003 that move the performance needle forward, we also come across a lot of duds. This is especially true at the sub $100 level, and so we felt it our duty to also point out those air purifiers you should avoid in this budget range. 

1. AROEVE MK01

If you take the 5-star reviews and $59.99 price point at face value, you would be hard-pressed to see a problem with this air purifier. 

I could not find a published CADR for this unit and that would make sense as when we tested it, we found it took 163 minutes* to clean our room to WHO guidelines. This is a problem we have seen before, but our test room is the smallest room in our house, so we can also assume this unit will be underpowered for most home use cases and thus should be avoided.

Pay $20 extra and get the Taotronics. Budget doesn’t have to be the thing that holds you back from having clean air in your home.

Why We Suggest You Avoid This Unit:

👎 The size is very small, which means the fan has to work very hard, creating a lot of noise and drawing a lot of power
👎 Only uses a HEPA filter, so does nothing for odors or VOCs and has no option to add an activated carbon filter

2. GermGuardian AC482e

This air purifier on the surface seems awesome. If you do a little Google research you will read glowing reviews from well-respected media organizations.

There is only one problem — it’s not good, at all.

It might have been an OK choice a few years back, but the AC4825e failed to perform well in our lab tests with a poor performance of 104 minutes. When the Levoit Core 300 can achieve this in 40, you have to wonder what you are paying for with the GermGuardian AC4825e.

Why We Suggest You Avoid This Unit:

👎 Poor cleaning performance for the money – use your money elsewhere
👎 Dislike the use of UV-C. It seems gimmicky and only adds electricity costs with no increase in effectiveness

Common Questions About Cheap Air Purifiers

🤔 What is the best budget air purifier?

As of when I’m writing this, the cheapest air purifier for getting the most cleaning power for $ spent is the Taotronics AP-003 with the cost of 35 cents for a CADR of 1 CFM. This means you can use multiple products for larger spaces and still benefit from the cheap performance. 

🤔 Do air purifiers take smells away?

HEPA alone won’t do anything about odors or anything in a gas like VOCs. To deal with smells and gasses, you will need to also use an activated charcoal or carbon filter. Activated charcoal has a proven record of removing odors and gases that get trapped inside. If you have serious odors or issues with VOCs you will want to look at air purifiers that have a large amount of activated carbon (as in lbs of the stuff). Be sure to look at our list of the best air purifiers for VOCs which has a few examples of these types of air purifiers. 

🤔 How do you make a homemade air purifier?

On a basic level, to make an air purifier you will need to attach a HEPA filter to a fan. The challenge is that the fan needs to be kept safe, so you are better off looking at resources like this guide on how to build a Corsi-Rosenthal Box from UC Davis. You can also find instructions in this helpful guide on the Smart Air blog.

I think DIY projects are great when you have to use something today, but if you do plan to use it regularly, you will find it better to invest in a cheap air purifier as it will last a lot longer and require less maintenance.

🤔 How much does a decent air purifier cost?

That Taotronics AP-003 costs $79.99 directly but can be found for a little more with third-party sellers on Amazon. It has a great CADR to $ rate, and it performed very well in our performance tests to clean particulate pollutants from our test lab.

🤔 Are small air purifiers worth it?

Small air purifiers can be the right choice for situations when you are in a very small space like a car and traveling by plane, but for the home I generally recommend that you choose a unit at least as large as the Levoit Core 300, as otherwise you will spend a lot on filters and will find it hard to have enough performance for even the smallest rooms. 

🤔 What is the best natural air purifier?

Opening a door or a window is a great first step to cleaning the air in your home. The challenge is when the air outside is worse and this is where a cheap air purifier can provide a way to clean the air without letting any more pollutants inside.


How We Picked Our Top Choices

We don’t recommend units without being 100% confident in our real-life performance testing process. That’s why we test all the models we recommend in the same room (sized 705 cubic ft) performing the same job (removing incense smoke). 

This allows us to compare units side by side and create “best” lists like this one. The most important features we considered when making this selection were: 

  1. Budget limit of $100 – We totally get that many families are limited on how much they can spend, so all the air purifiers recommended in this list are available for less than $99. 
  2. HEPA and activated charcoal – It’s important you don’t waste your budget on things like UV-C and ionizers, as they have not been shown to add cleaning power, but cost more and use more electricity. 
  3. Most efficient for $ spent  – The top 3 units we recommend for those on a budget are those that provide the best value both in unit costs, but also with filter replacements and energy usage. 

SOURCES

Monthly energy consumption costs have been calculated using our air purifier electricity usage calculator, which allows us to calculate daily and yearly costs associated with running an air purifier for 24hs a day. 

You can customize the result by air purifier wattage and by state. In the case of the calculations we shared on this page, we used California as our base state for energy prices.

Last update on 2022-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API