Winix Plasmawave 5300 (WAC5300) Air Purifier Review by Garth Wernsman
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The Winix PlasmaWave 5300 home air purifier can’t improve your health. Your body does that. It won’t cure your allergies. Allergies are largely genetic. But it can generate air that’s much better to breathe, giving your body its best shot at optimizing your health.
The Winix 5300 might just be this Korean company’s breakthrough home air purifier. Some products represent the culmination of a design and marketing cycle lasting years.
For example, after years of being a niche computer maker, the Macbook Air finally brought Apple into the mainstream. The 5300 feels like a similar effort. After making nothing more than Sharp knockoffs for a while, Winix finally delivered a real winner.
Performance – For Rooms up to 350 Square Feet
The Plasmawave 5300 is an attractive, well-built unit. The case is sturdy, compact, and lightweight (about 15 lbs). Made of high-quality plastic, the case is odor free, a nice benefit for those who are sensitive to outgassing compounds that flow from some cheaply made units. Those molecules, typically VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), are one of the things good home air purifiers are intended to remove, so it’s great that the 5300 doesn’t add any of its own.
This air cleaner is AHAM rated to cover a 350 square foot room (assuming an average height ceiling) and it lives up to that number. Very respectable CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) numbers are one of the main reasons why. Those are:
- 252 Pollen
- 248 Dust
- 236 Smoke
To avoid a long, technical explanation it’s suffice to say that the unit will clear allergens in less than an hour from any ordinary-sized area.
A number of factors let it achieve those ratings, starting with the powerful 4-speed fan. Obviously, if the air doesn’t go through the unit, it doesn’t get filtered. If it doesn’t go through quickly enough home pollutant levels can increase (or at least not go down) as the unit fails to keep up.
You’ll notice if the pollutant level increases because the 5300 houses a sensor that boosts the fan speed when it senses ‘bad’ air. Light a cigarette or cigar a few feet from the unit, for example, then wait a minute and extinguish it. The purifier will kick into high or even Turbo for a few minutes, then automatically downshift back into the speed you set initially.
Yet, even at high settings you can live quite comfortably with this model. Sitting in a home office, you’ll barely notice it above your computer’s fan even at the purifier’s top speed. The only time the fan noise becomes truly noticeable is in the normally short-lived Turbo mode.
Thanks to good quality control on the seals, whatever air enters the 21.7″ H x 16.3″ L x 8.5″ W case gets filtered. That helps maintain high efficiency since it eliminates the problem of air (and, therefore, particle) bypass. One way to check that is to let the purifier run for a month then inspect the inside of the case. If you see a lot of dust, mold, or anything else around the case instead of on the pre-filter, you don’t have a perfect filtration system.
3 Stage Purification System
The Winix 5300 is decidedly a mid-range unit. That’s evident from the filter system. It’s effective but lacks several stages found in higher end (and higher priced) models like the Winix 9500, the IQAir HealthPro Plus, the Rabbit BioGS line, and others.
Stage 1 consists of a carbon-coated pre-filter to trap the largest offenders like big dust particles and pet hair. There’s only a modest amount of carbon in this section so it won’t capture much of the smaller pollutants – VOCs, microorganisms, and the like – but that’s not its purpose.
Chiefly, pre-filters are designed to capture the big stuff to let the other sections work more efficiently. They also help keep maintenance costs down by extending the life of other filters, such as the HEPA filter in stage 2.
Stage 2 holds the aforementioned HEPA filter. Unlike the electronic cleanroom-quality IQAir HealthPro HyperHEPA, this HEPA is pretty run of the mill. Fortunately, even standard quality HEPA filters these days do a superb job of removing smoke, pet dander, and a wide variety of other allergens.
Pretty good for the most common, and in a way least important, component in an overall filtration system. Least important, because if your vacuum cleaner has a good HEPA filter you get a lot of that value already.
Like any other HEPA, it removes up to 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns. That will capture all but tiny viruses and individual VOC molecules. Mold spores, airborne bacteria, soot (from, say, car exhaust out in the street), and many more common home pollutants disappear from the airstream in this stage.
Stage 3 houses another important aspect of the Winix filtration system that deserves a section all its own: Winix’s Plasmawave Technology.
Plasmawave Ionizer Technology
Not a filter, per se, this proprietary ionizer generates positive and negative ions inside the unit. They’re then expelled into the exhaust where they combine with airborne water molecules (H2O). That reaction produces negatively-charged OH molecules (also known as hydroxyl radicals). The amount of Hydrogen (H) gas produced is too small a concentration to be any kind of danger.
Those hydroxyls are harmless to you (in the low concentration produced here) but effectively breakdown the molecular structure of many microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, mold spores, and the like – into water vapor and other harmless air molecules. They also neutralize odors and gases in the air. That’s especially helpful to cleanse air that doesn’t make it into the unit soon enough.
This method is more effective and safer than older-style ozone generators. Those work by creating ozone (O3), an oxygen molecule with three oxygen atoms rather than the usual two. That extra atom attached provides additional energetic electrons that ‘stick out’ and zap nearby organisms. But they can also irritate lungs and sting the eyes when the concentration is high enough to do good by purifying the air.
The ionizer is controllable, too. You may notice a slight clicking noise from time to time when the ion generator is pumping out those electrically-charged, air-cleansing molecules. So, it’s helpful that you can turn it off or on as you please. If the noise is irritating, it’s a simple matter to turn on that mechanism just before you leave the room, and turn it off when you re-enter.
Sensors, Indicators, and Controls
The fan and filter system is made more effective thanks to the odor sensor onboard. It’s not quite as good as the particle detector found in the newer Winix 5500 but it does work. It helps signal that household cleaning products, smoke, and other pollutants are in the airstream.
The indicators on the front panel show that along with other useful pieces of information. It’s not quite the rocket-ship display of some models like the Rabbit Air BioGS SPA-582A, but what you need to know is there. That includes fan speed, the ionizer status (on/off), Replace Filter light, Sleep Mode, and more.
By the way, on those last two…
The Replace Filter light tells you when to replace the HEPA, usually once per year, not the pre-filter. The pre-filter is recommended to replace about every three months. Both those figures depend on your air quality and hours of operation, of course. When it comes to replacement, the Winix filter kit #115115 includes a True HEPA filter and 4 disposable activated carbon pre-filters, at around $70.
Note that the unit defaults to AUTO when turned on, the mode that lets it adjust the fan speed automatically depending on the sensed air quality. Sleep Mode dims the panel lights and ensures that the fan speed won’t operate on any higher speed than Low. That guarantees that your home air purifier won’t prevent you falling asleep nor wake you unexpectedly in the middle of the night.
The Winix 5300 air cleaner won’t impress you by looks alone, though it’s stylish enough. There aren’t a lot of fancy lights or buttons. Even the specs won’t knock you over if you compare this model to some other models on the market.
It operates at low-noise levels while clearing a substantial volume of air quickly. It offers reliable operation and virtually eliminates smoke, dander, and health-injuring microorganisms. I’d say that merits the phrase “healthy air in a box”.
And… for the price, there are few that can match its efficiency and quiet operation at doing what’s it’s supposed to do: clean room air. True, the Plasmawave 5300 doesn’t have as many filtration stages as sometimes found in high-end units. But the filters it does contain leave air noticeably cleaner. Only individuals who are truly sensitive will need to bite the bullet and investigate a more costly unit.