One of the first things you may notice when shopping for an air purifier – just as I have – is that some are very expensive! Along the way I’ve done the research and have found some of the best values & best performing models that are excellent choices. After some time I found some of the top air purifiers under 100 dollars and I’ll cover them below.
Where you’re suffering from allergies, odors, pet dander, dust mite byproducts or more you can get relief. But you’ll need to get a good purifier as well as be aware of their features.
I’d love to help you make a great buying decision and be happy with what you buy. So I’ve put together some background information to know before shopping. I’ve also compiled a list of the best affordable air purifiers today and there pros/cons too.
Air purifier types
Although a variety of different names & product descriptions can be found for the products in today’s marketplace, there are 2 common types of air purifiers:
- Ozone generators and ionizers
- Filter-based purifiers
1. Ozone generators and ionizer purifiers
Have you ever noticed a unique fresh air smell after a lighting storm nearby? That odor is a sign that ozone is around you. The same principle that occurs in nature is used to cleanse the air in this case. Normally, oxygen atoms in your breathing air have 2 atoms and remain this way. By developing a high-voltage point within the device, nearby oxygen atoms are attracted to other oxygen atoms and ozone molecules are formed.
Because the third newly attached atom (an ion) can break away and, due to its negative atomic charge, attract particles in the air, it is possible to remove unwanted contaminants in the air. The remaining unused ozone floats freely in the air until it disperses also and normal oxygen remains once again.
If a filter, collecting rod, or plates are used the device can trap dust, microbes, allergens, cigarette smoke particles, and many other substances that cause allergies and disturb our breathing or cling to surfaces as dust. However, it’s important to note that ozone is harmful to humans and animals in high quantities as it can enter & damage mucous tissues as well as your lungs & respiratory passages. So much so that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standardized the tolerable limits for people in their workplace, for example.
Unfortunately the market is flooded with low-quality products sold as “ionizers” and “air purifiers” with levels of ozone produced that aren’t safe, and the products in fact have very little air purification ability.
The most significant drawback to these types of products is that while they work to cleanse the air, they can’t clean air as quickly or as thoroughly as filter types. Also, they don’t have the same ability to filter larger elements like pet hair or remove odors as well unless equipped with a carbon/charcoal filter stage.
2. Filter-based purifiers
Filter-based purifiers like the GermGuardian AC4825 work by pulling in dirty air and permanently trapping allergens, dust, dust mite matter, and pet dander. Clean air is pushed out of the exhaust side. Air purifiers work by circulating and filtering air continuously. The model shown includes a germ-killing feature which can eliminate microbes that cause sickness.
Based on a simple but proven principle, these air purifiers work by pulling air through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. A fan is used to move air through one or more filters and trap contaminants permanently.
Many sold today feature an additional 2 stages of filters to first trap larger particles and debris like hairs and larger dust. An active carbon filter section attracts and traps chemical substances in the air like odors and gasses.
How well do HEPA filters work?
A “true HEPA” is a filter meeting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard set back in the 1950s. In ensures that the filter can trap 99.97% of all substances entering it, down smaller than an incredible 1/1,000,000 of a meter (1 micron)! For reference, dust mite waste products – one of the most common sources of allergies in households – have been measured at 5 microns and larger. Therefore you can easily see why they’re excellent performers and work so well.
Unlike ozone generator purifiers, they trap an amazing 99.97% of every 10,000 microscopic particles that enter – only 3 out of every 10,000 escape! HEPA air purifier owners regularly report finally getting relief from allergies, smoke, and many other irritants.
Pet owners rely on them to greatly reduce the effects of pet odors and dander that cause allergy symptoms. They’re also highly effective for removing cigarette smoke odor and particles in the air.
Filter-based air purifiers are different from others in that they don’t normally produce any by-products.
5 top air purifiers under $100
Recommended models & reviews
1. GermGuardian AC4825 – A best seller and great-performing smart choice!
Another purifier with wonderful buyer reports and a top seller, the AC4825 doesn’t include the same features as the Levoit LV-H132 but offers more room coverage and also includes an ultraviolet (UV) germ killing feature. A true HEPA filter design ensures it cleans your air well and leaves the room fresh and allergen & dust-free. The pre-filter, an activated carbon filter, handles larger particles and odor removal. Additionally it provides nearly twice the room coverage of the Levoit.
It’s a great overall value and an excellent choice. I’m a proud owner and you can read more about it in my detailed review here.
A 3-speed fan control is provided and a great choice for those who prefer simple controls & operation. The filter is easy to remove and replace by opening the rear door and simply swapping it out. A replacement reminder is included too.
At 22 inches in height, it’s not a compact as others listed here but the small base size allows it to fit well in corners and small places where height is not an issue. Replacement filters cost about $30 and last approximately 6 months, depending upon use.
You can also find 3rd party brand filters which are cheaper.
- Simple 3-speed fan switch is great for nearly everyone
- Good overall value for performance & room size vs. the Levoit LV-132
- Great filtering performance
- Quiet fan operation on low speed setting
- Germ & microbe-killing UV-C feature not found in many others
- Filter replacement reminder
- Soft LED when power is on
- Vertical size is great for corner or areas with more vertical space
- Good room size coverage (155 square feet)
- 3-year limited warranty
- No auto-sensing modes
- No electronic controls
- No auto-off feature
- Cannot wash & reuse filter
- Design is less stylish and attractive than other competitors in its price range (ex. Levoit LV-H132)
- Warranty requires paying for return shipment for service
Even better, it’s also available in a sharp-looking version called the AC4900CA. It’s identical in performance as well. Note that prices are often slightly different between the two despite being functionally identical.
I personally own a AC4825 and now I understand why it’s a best seller. It’s well made, works great for cleaning the air, and is frustration-free. You’ll find the best price and thousands of happy buyer reviews over at Amazon.
2. Levoit LV-H132 – A great small to mid-sized room purifier with nice features.
Although it provides less coverage than the GermGuardian AC4825, the Levoit makes up for this by including a lot of great features. It’s also a great looking choice for small rooms or light duty use in medium-sized rooms.
It uses a 3-stage true HEPA filter that’s great at eliminating odors, allergens, pet dander, dust mite by-products and so much more.
Not only this but buyer reviews are excellent and it’s a top seller in its category.
Of the products listed here, it offers the most features in addition it very pleasant and quiet operation on low speed. A built-in night light with 2 brightness settings is a bonus feature. A convenient filter replacement reminder lets you know when it’s time to change the filter and replace it if needed.
Replacement filters run around $30 and are simple to replace by opening the top cover.
- Shorter height than competing tower purifiers
- 2-year warranty
- 3 fan speeds
- Night light with 2 brightness levels
- Nice looking, modern design
- Electronic soft button controls
- Quiet operation on low level won’t disturb sleep
- Filter replacement reminder
- Great build quality & high reliability
- Easy filter replacement
- Smaller room coverage than others in its price range (89 sq. ft.)
- No auto-off timer feature
- No air quality sensor
- Electronic controls may not be suitable for some
It’s an excellent purifier with wonderful buyer reviews and great air cleaning performance. Be sure to check out why it's one of the best sold today and was awarded the Amazon's Choice label.
UPDATE: A sleek new black version is now available too!
3. GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1: Great office, dorm, or small room air cleaning and germ killing.
A great mid-price model, the AC4100 has an excellent reputation and is a great looking, well performing purifier. Measuring only 7.5 x 6.5 x 11″ in size, it also uses a true HEPA filter & charcoal section to produce fresh, clean air and permanently remove the nasty substances found in your home, office, and especially places like a dorm room.
As an added bonus the UV light along with titanium dioxide kills germs to make your air more safe and prevent illness. A replacement filter costs about $18 and there’s a filter installation date wheel on the rear to help you know when it’s time to replace it.
Operation is simple: a 3 speed fan control. It’s quiet and generates a pleasing low noise level on the lowest setting. When set to high sound similar to white noise is produced.
Unlike other models the UV-C is an on/off switch rather than a pushbutton control. Also, I’m not thrilled that there are no indicator lights for the UV-C feature being turned on or filter replacement.
However, those are fairly minor complaints and the unit is overall a great one to choose for small rooms.
- Simple 3-speed fan control and on/off UV-C switch
- UV & titanium dioxide design to kill germs
- Great filtering ability for its small size
- High speed setting moves a lot of air for purifying quickly
- Filter replacement reminder wheel (month installed)
- Low filter replacement price (about $19)
- Filter replacement date wheel (marks month installed)
- Sleek, modern design
- 1 year warranty is shorter than other models
- Fan speed on high could be slightly better
- No filter replacement reminder
- No additional colors offered
- No indicator light for UV-C “on”
Following the same great quality that has made GermGuardian purifiers some of the best today, it’s a great choice. Definitely worth reading the many great buyer reviews and that helped it receive the Amazon's Choice rating.
4. Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet – Affordable, compact, and quiet!
Do you have a slightly tighter budget? The Hamilton Beach TrueAir represents not just a well-made purifier that’s with a lower price but one that also helps keep ownership costs down.
The HEPA filter can be vacuumed clean. With the exception of heavy use, you won’t have to replace it as frequently as other products. That’s a great way to save money!
The rotary 3-speed fan switch is simple. The unit yet works quietly during operation unlike other lower-priced purifiers on the market.
It’s small in size at only 8.5 x 13.5″ but the room coverage is a great 140 square feet. It’s a good choice forsmall rooms & offices. Another great option it has is the ability to be placed on its side as well. The soft feet keep it in place when doing so..
Note that unlike the others, there are no additional pre-filter sections. I don’t recommend it, therefore, for heavy dust or pet hair. In that case you should check out the pet version (TrueAir Pet Specialized Cleaner).
It’s available in both a nice black color and white as well. (Note that the different colors may be priced differently from time to time).
- HEPA filter is effective for average dust and allergen removal
- Main (HEPA) filter can be vacuumed and reused – low maintenance costs
- Can be used on its side for even more convenience
- Quiet operation
- Nice design
- Simple 3-speed operation control
- Limited room size coverage
- No pre-filter or carbon filter section (not recommended for heavy hair or dust conditions)
- No power indicator lights or filter replacement reminder
- No sleep or auto-shut off mode
It’s a great choice if you’re looking for affordable allergy relief. Head over and check out the many happy buyer reviews today.
5. Holmes HAP242-NUC HEPA-type desktop purifier – A low-cost performer.
Looking for a competent but lower priced choice? The HAP242-NUC may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. It offers excellent value for the money and lower filter maintenance costs. It measures a reasonable 14.8 x 11.4 x 7.2 inches in size.
Featuring a small size that’s perfect for counter tops, shelves, and desktops,the Holmes can also be placed vertically on its back. Rubber feet are located on the rear so it can be rotated.
It uses a HEPA-type filter that is similar to the filtering qualities of a true HEPA filter. The filter can remove 99% of all particles down to 2 microns in size (2/1,000,000 of a meter) as opposed to the 0.3 micron standard of a genuine HEPA filter.
It’s a budget model but still a good performer for many common air quality problems. The 2 micron particle size rating will work for pet dander, dust, and standard alllergens. I wouldn’t recommend it for cigarette smoke, however, at least not without a carbon filter.
A built-in ionizer with off/on control is an additional feature and produces a safe level of fresh charged molecules which bond with pollutants in the air. It adds more cleaning performance with no fuss.
It’s unique in that the pre-stage filter can be removed and washed to be reused. Fan speed is adjustable and while not as quiet as the Levoit and others here, it does offer low noise when on low speed. It’s recommended for rooms up to 109 square feet in size.
Buyers have great things to say about it and some report paying as little as $13 dollars for replacement filters.
- One of the most affordable and biggest sellers on the market
- Easy slide control switches & 3 speed settings
- Pre-stage filter can be cleaned and reused
- Low replacement filter cost
- Can be positioned vertically
- Inludes ionizer with on/off control
- Lower cost version of a true HEPA filter with nearly the same standard of performance
- Available in black
- 3-year limited warranty
- Build quality isn’t quite as good as others
- No germ-killing feature like the GermGuardian products offer
- Uses slide switches instead of rotating switches
- Styling is more bland bland than other products
For the price, it’s a great choice for those with tight spending limits. Check out the amazing number of positive reviews.
Choosing the best model on a budget
When possible, I recommend buying a filter-based product. You’ll get the best results especially if you have air quality issues with particles like pet dander and dust. In the long run it’s better to spend a few dollars more now.
On this page you’ll find lots of additional information related to air quality, dust, pet-related issues, and much more.
Have any questions or need buying advice? Feel free to comment or send me a message!