On a budget but need fresher air? I totally understand! Shopping for a good model can be tough and time consuming.
To help I’ve put together a list of top air purifiers under 100 dollars for nearly every budget. You’ll find helpful details, reviews, and pros & cons for each too.
I’ve also added some helpful information to better understand what air purifiers do, how they work, and which are the safest & most effective.
Air purifier types
Although many different names & product descriptions can be found in today’s marketplace, there are 2 common types of air purifiers:
- Ozone generators and ionizers
- Filter-based (HEPA) purifiers
1. Ozone generators and ionizers
Shown: Examples of readily available ionizers (left) and an ozone generator (right). Unlike filter-based air cleaners, they don’t physically trap nasty elements in the rather. Rather they use “ions” (electrically charged air molecules) such as ozone to attract to them and either catch them or cause them to fall to the floor.
Have you ever noticed a unique fresh air smell after a lighting storm nearby? That smell 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 stay this way.
How are ozone or ions made? The science simplified
By developing a high-voltage point within the device, nearby oxygen atoms are attracted to other oxygen atoms and ozone molecules are formed. That’s why you can smell ozone sometimes after a thunderstorm – the super-high voltage of lightening creates it in the air when it strikes.
Because the third newly attached atom (an ion) can break free, and due to its negative atomic charge, in theory this can attract particles in the air. The idea is then to remove unwanted contaminants in the air this way.
The remaining unused ozone floats freely in the air until it disperses and normal oxygen remains once again.
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 the workplace.
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.
2. Filter-based (HEPA) 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.
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 extra 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.
Which type of purifier do I need?
To get the best and healthiest results, you need a HEPA-type filter air purifier.
They work well, produce great results, and don’t produce any irritants or unwanted by-products.
How 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!
Pet owners rely on them to greatly reduce the effects of pet odors and dander that cause allergy symptoms.
What is a pre-filter/activated carbon filter?
The most effective air purifiers include both the HEPA filter section and a pre-filter/activated carbon section, too. They work together to remove not just microscopic particles (as the HEPA filter is best at) but also odors, vapors, and larger elements like pet hair or dust.
Pre-filter are a thin, first-stage way to removing larger particles like dust and hair before they can become trapped in and fill up the HEPA filter.
Most quality brands have include an activated carbon treatment. Activated carbon can absorb and trap odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are potential irritants.
They’re also ideal for air quality problems like cigarette smoke and pet odors.
In many cases the pre-filter can be replaced separately from the HEPA filter at reduced cost. It’s a great option as under light or normal use the HEPA filter may not need replacement, so why waste money?
★ 5 top air purifiers under $100 ★
Our top picks at a glance
|GermGuardian AC4825||Check on Amazon|
|Levoit LV-H132||Check on Amazon|
|GermGuardian AC4100||Check on Amazon|
|Hamilton Beach TrueAir||Check on Amazon|
|Holmes HAP242||Check on Amazon|
Product reviews and details
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. However, it 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 fits well into corners or other spaces. Replacement filters cost about $30 and last about 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
I personally own a AC4825 and now understand why it’s a best seller. It’s well made, works great for cleaning the air, and is frustration-free.
UPDATE: Great news! GermGuardian has released a new white version of the same model.
Like something more stylish and unique? Check out the sleek AC4900CA version here.
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 it some great features. It’s also one of the quietest air purifiers I’ve ever tested!
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.
The LV-H132 provides electronic touch controls. It’s simple to use and works well. Additionally, a memory feature means that upon the next power up it returns to the last settings you used.
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.
The convenient filter replacement reminder lets you know when it’s time to inspect the filter and replace it if needed.
Replacement filters run around $30 and are simple to replace by opening the top cover.
Overall, I’m impressed. After much testing and use, I really enjoyed using it.
- 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 (129 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.
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 a sound like white noise is produced.
Unlike other models the UV-C is an on/off switch and not 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 for small rooms, as it’s well-made and affordable. It’s a great model that I reviewed here.
- 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 more 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 that helped a best seller at Amazon.
4. Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet – Affordable, compact, and quiet!
Do you have a slightly tighter budget? The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet isn’t just low cost but also a well-made and compact popular model.
The HEPA filter can be vacuumed clean. With the exception of heavy use, you won’t have to replace it as often as other products. That’s a great way to save money!
Controls are simple and easy to find on top. There’s an easy-access release for opening the filter for maintenance, too.
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 at only 8.5 x 13.5″ but the room coverage is a great 140 square feet. It’s a good choice for small rooms & offices.
One great feature is that the True Air purifier can be placed on its side to fit into smaller areas.
Nice! With the True Air, you can easily vacuum off the HEPA filter for extended life. It’s a great feature I love.
One drawback is that there’s no activated carbon/pre-filter section like some more expensive competitors or the GermGuardian AC4100. However, the easy access for cleaning the HEPA filter helps make up for that.
It’s available in both a nice black color and white as well.
- 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 find out why it's one of the best-selling small purifiers at Amazon.
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 maintenance costs.
It’s not the smallest but 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 (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 allergens.
I wouldn’t recommend it for cigarette smoke, however, at least not without a carbon filter.
Wow! A unique feature is the ability to stand the HAP-242 purifier on its end. It’s great for limited space and focusing the airflow upward when preferred.
A built-in ionizer with off/on control is an extra feature that 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. When possible, also get the best you can afford from the recommended list above.
Have questions about purifiers or just want to learn more? Check out my Information page with lots of air purifier and other air quality posts.
Have any questions or need buying advice? Feel free to comment or send me a message!