Winix Plasmawave 5500 (WAC5500) Air Purifier Review by Garth Wernsman
|Last Updated: 11/12/2017 06:40 UTC. Because of the rate with which conditions change, prices may slightly vary or product may be temporarily out of stock when checking out the product at the vendor's site. Any price and availability information displayed on the vendor's site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.|
I dislike gushing over products. I try to relate the pros and cons objectively and let the chips fall where they may. But in the case of the Winix Plasmawave 5500 it’s hard to suppress all enthusiasm. This is one of the best mid-range models the company has developed, in a line of already fine air purifiers.
Performance and Stats
An air purifier works well if you feel better about the air you breathe after it has done its job. Fortunately, there are objective criteria that provide confidence about whether a model can achieve that effect.
One of these is CADR, the Clean Air Delivery Rate, a measure of how much air the unit cleans, how fast. The numbers for the Winix 5500 are pretty good.
- 252 Pollen
- 248 Dust
- 236 Smoke
But how to interpret these numbers? That’s the key question. For a room no larger than about 350 square feet – roughly 18 feet by 18 feet, those figures assure you of a clean room at almost all times.
Almost, not always, because there may be short periods, for example, in homes of smokers or those who live near dusty roads, where the unit has to play ‘catch up’ after a burst of particles enters. At those times, you can switch the 5500 to manual on high to do extra-quick cleaning duty.
3 Stage Purification System
As with any air purifier, one of the reasons the unit operates well is the filter system. The Winix system is uniformly good and this model’s is no exception.
Stage 1 contains an Odor Control Carbon Pre-filter. Fancy phrase but the idea – and its implementation here – are actually simple and effective. Charcoal granules are very good at grabbing a lot of (relatively) large particles out of the air that passes near them. It’s also really good at removing unwanted gases, such as vapors from household cleaning products.
Winix goes beyond that elementary, nature-provided cleansing power by coating the pre-filter with an anti-microbial chemical that kills bacteria and fungi.
In stage 2 comes the Winix HEPA filter. The HEPA filter is a central component in any home air purifier and the one in the 5500 has been upgraded from the 5300. It is now washable.
Since ordinary HEPA filters have to be replaced every year or so (depending on usage and air quality) one that lasts longer can be a big savings. The longer you can use the one that comes with the unit the more economical the 5500 becomes. This one is rated to last 2-3 years, which can be stretched a bit in light-pollutant-level homes.
Just wash it when you replace the carbon pre-filter (about every three months) and it will keep working at near-new capacity for its rated lifetime. A light on the top of the housing illuminates when it should be replaced. It measures actual usage, not just the length of time you’ve had the filter installed.
Stage 3 in the Winix 5500’s filter system is something the company calls Plasmawave, a type of ionizer. The ionizer feature in the 5500 offers another layer of home air pollutant removal. Most air purifiers have one but the Winix technology works a little differently.
It pumps out positive and negative ions that react with airborne water molecules, creating hydroxyl radicals (negatively charged OH molecules). Those hydroxyls then break down VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as those from cleaning products, gasoline exhaust fumes, and the like. They also zap airborne microorganisms that can cause disease or generate allergic reactions.
That is an effective, safe way to remove a considerably quantity of potentially harmful things that inhabit most homes. Older models (and some you can still find from other manufacturers) used ozone. While the health risks of pumping O3 molecules into your air were sometimes overstated, this method is better. Also, since those ions are put into the air they cleanse it without the pollutants even having to move through the unit’s filter system.
Sensors and Controls
That 3-stage filtration system wouldn’t be as effective if it weren’t supported by a number of useful sensors and controls. The 5500 has fewer than some other models but the ones that are there are sufficient and work well.
One is the air quality sensor. It measures the particulate levels in the air that passes through the system. The motor/fan then runs at any of four speeds – all of which can be selected manually – as it senses the need.
When particulate concentrations are high – say a wave of dust or allergens has floated near the unit – it automatically buzzes on Turbo for a while. When they’re low, it lazily spins along to maintain the air at a clean level.
That motor/fan pumps:
- 53 cfm (cubic feet per minute) on Quiet
- 113 cfm on Medium
- 173 cfm on High
- 226 cfm on Turbo.
Sometimes the noise when operating in Turbo mode can be annoying to sensitive people. Best to have the unit a little out of the way, if possible. That’s not too difficult, since it measures 21.7″ H x 16.3″ wide x 8.5″ deep. Moving it is also easy, as it weighs only 15.7 lbs.
Changing the speeds manually is easy from across the room using the remote control included in the box. You can also use it to turn off/on the plasma (ion) generator, or power off/on the unit as a whole.
Winix 5300 and 5500 – Same Models?
The 5500 is the follow-on model of the 5300, both of which are still produced and supported by Winix. There’s no major change between the two models because there was no need. That said, manufacturing quality has possibly improved a bit because there are many fewer complaints about the crackling noise from the ionizer.
The differences between the 5300, beyond improvements in quality control, are few and subtle, but may be important to some potential buyers. The 5500 carries a washable HEPA filter and comes with a remote control. Whether that justifies a higher price tag is a strictly personal choice of course. For a more in-depth comparison between these 2 models read our Winix 5300 vs 5500 comparison article.
The Winix 5500 model lacks some high-end features other models on the market offer. It also cleanses a smaller area than high-end versions. However, this unit also lacks the high price of those others.
That said, at this price point you could hardly ask for a more effective, low-maintenance-cost, easy-to-use home air purifier. The WAC5500 removes not just ordinary allergens – dust, pollen, bacteria, et al – but also VOCs, cooking odors, smoke, and other household air pollutants. For a mid-range unit with a mid-range price, that’s a great value.