If your primary needs are to rid a room of particles and allergens rather than odors or chemical vapors, a less-expensive air cleaner might fit your needs very well. Among lower-priced air purifiers with the capacity to handle moderately large rooms, the Whirlpool AP51030K Whispure (Est. $280) air purifier gets solid marks from professionals and owners for its performance, earning an Excellent rating for dust, pollen and smoke removal on the high settings, Very Good ratings on the low setting. It offers four fan speeds, which also help users control the noise level, in addition to a sleep mode and a turbo mode for maximum cleaning efficiency. Most say it's fairly quiet, especially on the low setting, and professional test bear that out: the Whispure ranks Very Good for noise on low speed, Good for noise on high speed. It's also dubbed a Best Buy in that same professional roundup.
The Whirlpool Whispure is a compact unit, so it doesn't take up as much space as some of the more expensive air purifiers. It uses both a HEPA filter, the Whirlpool 1183054K (Est. $80) and a carbon prefilter, the Whirlpool 8171434K (Est. $25 for a four-pack). It also boasts easy-to-use electronic controls and a filter-life indicator. There's no ionizer, and zero ozone is generated. The Whirlpool Whispure is rated to cover areas up to about 490 square feet.
A bit smaller, a bit less extensive, but just as well-regarded in the same professional roundup, the Honeywell HPA300 (Est. $200) is rated for rooms up to 465 square feet. This air cleaner earns identical ratings to that of the Whirlpool -- Excellent in removing dust, pollen and smoke removal on high, Very Good on low, and Very Good/Good for noise on low speed/high speed. And, like the Whirlpool, the Honeywell is also given Best Buy status.
Although we found fewer user reviews overall for the Honeywell, satisfaction is equally high. Quite a few owners say they purchased this air cleaner on the advice of their allergist, and have noticed a reduction in allergy symptoms. The high setting does garner some complaints of being too loud, but most say the low setting is barely noticeable, and many like the "white noise" effect. The HPA300 uses the relatively affordable Honeywell HEPA Replacement HRF-R2 (Est. $45) and the Honeywell Universal Carbon Pre-Filter HRF-AP1 (Est. $10), making its annual cost of ownership about $193 compared to the Whirlpool's $212.
If you have a smaller space to clear, we see very strong feedback for the Coway AP-1512HH Mighty (Est. $250) air purifier. It's rated for rooms up to 361 square feet and is chosen as the Best Air Purifier by TheSweetHome.com. John Holecek, an airborne-particle physicist, conducts extensive and well-documented testing and finds that the AP-1512H is as effective at removing particles from the air as air purifiers costing considerably more. Another plus for some is that it is also quite a bit smaller than many air purifiers, measuring 16.8 by 9.6 by 18.3 inches. The glossy black cabinet with white ring accent is a departure from typical air-purifier styling, and while Holecek concedes that it won't fit into every dŽcor, it's still "better than sticking out like a sore thumb in every setting, which was the case with most of the other models we looked at."
Low power consumption is another strong point. It's the lowest watt-guzzler in Holecek's tests, -- 15.6 watts on the medium fan setting. "To put that in perspective, that's only 2.1 watts more than a single Cree True White LED lightbulb," Holecek adds. Operating economy is further enhanced by relatively low filter costs. The Coway Replacement Filter Pack (Est. $50) includes a single HEPA filter that should be replaced annually, plus two carbon filters, which are swapped out every six months.
The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Compact Air Purifier 04386 (Est. $45) is another affordable option that packs quite a punch for such a small appliance. It's not included in any professional tests, but thousands of owners posting at Amazon.com and elsewhere praise this small air purifier for its ability to remove dust particles and other allergens from the air. This Hamilton Beach air cleaner can sit upright or be positioned on its side, so it allows for more efficient space utilization. As is the case with the Coway, some prefer the sleek design and less industrial look of the Hamilton Beach over more typically-styled air purifiers
The Hamilton Beach 04386 offers three speeds, including a Whisper Clean setting for ultra-quiet operation that is practically undetectable, according to reviews. On the downside, the Hamilton Beach 04386 is only recommended for use in spaces up to 160 square feet, so it's not adequate for large living areas or bedrooms. The company also does not participate in the voluntary testing program conducted by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) so its ratings and claims have not been independently verified.
The Hamilton Beach has a lifetime filter, designed to be vacuumed periodically instead of replaced -- completely eliminating the ongoing filter-replacement costs associated with most air purifiers -- in theory. However, reviews suggest that replacing the Hamilton Beach's filter occasionally is necessary to keep the machine running at optimal performance. Still, since the Hamilton Beach TrueAir Replacement Filter (Est. $15) is quite inexpensive, ongoing maintenance costs are still lower than with most other air cleaners.