If you’ve shopped for an air purifier I’m sure you’re already aware of how many choices there are. It’s tough to make a decision – which ones are the best for your money?
In my detailed hands-on review of the Winix 5500-2 true HEPA air purifier I’ll help you decide if it’s a good choice for you, too. (Hint: I like it!)
I found out a lot of interesting things, so read on to learn more!
Basics first: Winix 5300-2 vs the 5500-2
Winix America produces a host of air quality products including humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers including the 5x00 series.
The 52300-2 and 5500-2 are two very similar High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter based air purifiers that very similar with a few differences in features and price. Both are popular, well-made air cleaners with excellent buyer satisfaction reviews.
In fact, you might be interested to know that besides looking very similar they offer the same room size coverage and same basic air cleaning ability.
However, there are definitely a few advantages you’ll get by buying the 5500-2 over its sibling the 5300-2.
Basic features both share:
- Room size coverage: 390 square feet (med.-large sized rooms)
- 3-stage filtering design
- Proprietary PlasmaWave air cleaning feature (optional for use)
- Auto-control air sensing technology (Auto mode)
- True HEPA filter
- Washable prefilter section
- Auto off timer
- Night mode/light-sensing
- Turbo fan mode
Both offer a 1 year warranty.
The 5500-2 differs in 2 mains ways from the 5300-2:
- Remote control
- Washable Advanced Odor Control (AOC) carbon filter
There’s only one really significant difference between the two and that’s the type of odor control filer included.
While the 5300-2 offers a mesh prefilter much like other products from GermGuardian or Honeywell (a single mesh prefilter with odor-absorbing coating) the 5500-2 uses a much more robust odor control section with large activated carbon pellets.
Note that the activated carbon pellets can trap not just odors but also volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemical byproducts that are airborne.
What is Winix’s PlasmaWave?
The optional PlasmaWave feature is an add-on on design similar to ionizer technology that breaks apart airborne pollutants at the molecular level without creating ozone. It’s not required for use but is optional.
More about that later.
Unboxing & first impressions
I was eager to get my hands on the 5500-2 and see why so many other people love it. Finally mine arrived from Amazon got started unboxing and testing it right away.
My purifier arrived in a nice cardboard box, securely held inside with styrofoam. I would have preferred they used recycled cardboard as other companies do, but oh well.
Everything was nicely kept in place and checked out fine. Right away after removing the purifier (by pulling it out using the convenient built-in handle), I found a handy quick start guide waiting.
Included in the box are the following:
- Remote control, remote holder, and double-sided tape
- Owner’s manual
- Quick start guide with “getting started” notes
The quick start guide features the basic (very simple) steps you’ll need to get started quickly. That’s basically because you’ll need to first remove the front cover, remove the filters from their sealed bags, and re-install them as directed.
It’s a pretty simple process as you’ll see later below and only took me a few minutes.
Build quality and fit & finish
Checking out the Winix 5500-2’s fit and finish (general appearance and build quality). It’s a nice satin color in between gray and black, with body panels that line up and are put together well. All-in-all, I was happy with how it looked – it’s well made.
As I always like to do, I had a closer look at the purifier’s various body parts to get a better idea about the build quality.
Fit and finish are good, without any noticeable defects or assembly issues. The control panel features a printed vinyl overlay (like a thin plastic sheet over the real electronics) that’s nicely done.
Overall, it’s well-made and looks like a high-quality purifier and a good rival to other competing brands I’ve tested. I’d say quality control is good and it’s obvious the company know what they’re doing here.
(Note: Although the American company is Winix America my purifier was actually built in South Korea as that’s where it originated.)
Controls & how to operate it
The Winix purifier uses electronic touch controls located behind a perfectly flat plastic panel. They’re easy to use and well-labeled. During use I found it very simple to understand and use daily, although you really should read the owner’s manual to fully understand the features.
The 5500-2 is easily to use and works using electronic touch controls, similar to some competitor models from Levoit, GermGuardian, and Honeywell. Just like them it has its own style, too.
Although it might look a bit complicated at first, it’s not! The panel controls offer the following:
- Power on/off
- Mode: (Auto and sleep mode features)
- PlasmaWave on/off
- Fan speeds: Low, med., high, and Turbo
- Auto-off: 1, 4, and 8 hour indicators
When operated, each mode, fan speed, or feature is illuminated from behind with a nice white light. I like it, and I found it to be well-done and very modern looking.
Fan speeds and special modes
It’s easy to switch modes and fan speeds, either manually or by using the included remote control. To do so, just push the fan speed button to cycle through the speeds (Turbo is the highest, and a special powerful mode).
Pushing the Mode button switches between Auto (the self-adjusting mode) or the super-quiet sleep mode.
While in Auto or sleep mode, touching the fan speed button brings it out of those and back into manual operation again.
Shown: The auto-off timer button lets you cycle through 3 countdown timers after which the purifier turns off automatically. It’s a nice feature and works well.
The timer feature is just as simple, too. Just push it to switch between 1 of 3 hour settings (1, 4, and 8 hrs) after which it’ll shut itself off – nice to have!
Push it again at any time to switch it disengage the timer if you like.
Located to the far right of the control panel is the check filter light & reset access point, light sensor area, and air quality sensing opening.
When it’s time to clean and possibly replace your filter the reminder light will turn on a steady light. Using a small object like the end of a paperclip, you can push and hold the reminder for 5 seconds to clear the light.
You’ll need to place it in Auto mode for that to work. It works well in my experience and it’s another reason I’ve come to enjoy using the Winix.
Using the PlasmaWave feature
When the PlasmaWave feature is in use the logo glows with a blue light. By default the purifier will start in Auto mode with the feature turned on at power up. Note the air quality indicator light below it.
To use the PlasmaWave feature just touch the on/off button. You’ll know it’s working as the logo will illuminate when it’s on.
Air quality indicator light
As I mentioned earlier, the 5500-2 features an air quality sensor. When the purifier is running the air quality light strip at the bottom center will glow indicating the current detected air quality.
There are 3 colors provided: Blue (good), amber (fair), and red (poor). The indicator is lit even when not in auto mode, as the sensor still works to show you what it’s detecting.
Beeps and chime sounds
The Winix has some unique beeps and chimes you’ll hear both when turning it on/off or when using the controls. Check out my video above to hear the sounds.
Each touch of a button gives a gentle chime sound. When turning the purifier on or off you’ll hear a slightly “musical” series of chimes as well.
Unfortunately there’s no way to switch the sounds off if you prefer silent operation. Yes, I am a bit picky and usually turn off sounds when possible, but in everyday use the sounds weren’t a problem for me.
Specifications & CADR ratings
If you’re not already familiar with it, the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is an industry standard way of testing and determining an air cleaner’s effectiveness.
The 5500-2’s CADR ratings are shown here.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is an organization that verifies the testing results of home appliances & carry out lab testing for appliance manufacturers. The CADR rating tests are voluntary and not required by law.
In simple terms, the CADR ratings are numbers used to help you know an air cleaner’s performance before buying. The rating numbers are based on “higher is better.”
They’re lab tested using a series of air cleaning scenarios to find out how well they work.
For comparison purposes, consider this: most medium-sized room purifiers (that offer CADR ratings – not all do!) are around 100 or so on average. Therefore the 5500-2 has nearly 2.5 times the air cleaning effectiveness of those!
Thoughts on the 5500-2 size & weight
At just under 2 feet (24 inches) tall, it’s still not too tall in my opinion. Given that it does need a decent size to fit the powerful fan and nice filters inside it hasn’t been a problem for me.
Even when used in a small room the size wasn’t much of an issue.
Carrying the purifier
The purifier features a built-in handle on the rear as well. It’s very convenient for picking it up when you need to move it.
On the top rear of the unit is a recessed area that works as a carrying handle. I found it a pleasure to use and really handy.
As the purifier’s shape is somewhat like a large box in ways having the handle available takes the hassle out of moving it around your room when you like.
At about 15 lbs (about 7 kgs) it’s not too heavy, either.
Remote control details
The remote control also comes with a nice holder and double-sided foam tape you can use to mount it nearly anywhere. For a more secure mount there’s a screw hole you can use. It’s a nice little bonus – especially if you’re prone to losing remotes. Note: The battery is included!
The remote is nice and works well (up to around 20 feet in distance from the purifier, as I recall). I’ve got 2 fairly minor complaints, however:
- The front of the remote has a thin plastic panel instead of real buttons
- There’s no control for the PlasmaWave feature
Just pull out the battery protection seal (yes, the battery is included and is fresh!) and you’re ready to go.
As a plastic sheet is used for the labels instead of real buttons you won’t be able to use the remote simply by touch – you’ll most likely have to look at it, which is definitely an inconvenience in the dark.
I just don’t understand why there’s no button for the PlasmaWave feature, either! Why not? It seems like someone overlooked this.
That being said, overall, I’m still pretty happy with it and it’s the first air purifier I’ve used that included a handheld remote control. A very nice change of pace!
5500-2 power use measurements (Watts)
The biggest problem I’ve found with air cleaning products’ power ratings is that even if there’s even one provided, it’s often only for the highest fan speed setting.
But what about the everyday use most of us would want, which is on a lower speed? How much energy will the 5500-2 use?
I set out to find out myself so I measured power use (in Watts, averaged) on all settings. Here’s what I found:
|Mode/Speed||Power Use (Watts)|
As you can see, it uses only a few watts in all but the highest settings! That’s excellent and it’s one of the most power-efficient purifiers I’ve tested so far.
Additionally, when I switched on the PlasmaWave there was no noticeable increase in power use, either. That’s in contrast to its competitor, the GermGuardian AC5250PT with UV-C feature which adds an extra 5W or so when the feature turned on.
In fact it’s an Energy Star rated appliance although you might not be aware. For some reason the company doesn’t use labels on the box or in some product listings as their competitors do.
Air cleaning ability + more about PlasmaWave
I was quite a bit confused about the PlasmaWave feature as unfortunately there aren’t any details in the owner’s manual. As I’ve tested other products with ultraviolet light germ killers, ionizers, and other similar features, I was very curious to find out more.
According to the company:
It works using an ionizer type of device to affect water molecules in the air to have them attach to airborne particles and remove them. While it’s nice to have, it’s a small feature and won’t have a big impact on your home’s air quality.
Primarily, as always, it’s the main filter quality that really provides effective air cleaning and that truly matters. Everything else is a “nice to have” type of feature.
What’s it like to use?
There are no odors or noises you’ll find when it’s switched on, as indicated by the “on” light which is a blue light behind the feature’s logo.
In fact, if not for the logo you’d have no idea it’s working at all.
Air cleaning performance
After using mine for some, the prefilter showed signs of doing a good job of removing dust, hair, and other nasty particles in the air during use.
I tested the 5500-2 for several things and especially good old-fashioned everyday use just like you’d use it for. There’s a lot to be said for real-world testing: not just for seeing how well it works but for things like noise levels, any problems that might pop up, or more.
The 5500 worked very well cleaning my air and trapping odors as well. I’ve used it in both auto and manual setting modes and I’m happy to say it’s definitely a good one.
The prefilter in my unit caught dust, lint, hair, and other nasty things circulating in the room where I used it.
Testing auto mode
I’ve noticed that when in Auto (auto-sensing) mode it works well, but has a slight delay before the fan speed changes, which is fine. I assume that’s intentional to prevent it from constantly moving between fan speeds due to sudden air quality changes.
For example, I tested the air quality and auto mode by using a traditional paper match. The 5500 was able to sense the strong odor in the room, indicated it on the air quality light (turned red), and then increased the fan speed until the condition was gone.
It’s a neat feature that I like.
Room Size and square feet coverage
The company provides a recommended room size coverage of about 390 sq. ft and it’s a good fit for medium to some large-sized rooms.
360 sq ft is about 15 x 24 ft (about 4.6 x 7.3 meters). Note that it’s an approximation and you don’t have to have exactly a room that size and no larger.
The main point to know is that coverage is quite good (many of the most popular competitors offer only up to 155 sq ft coverage).
Also note that not only is it perfectly fine to use in smaller rooms, too, but you’ll also get even better use of it as the room’s air will be cycled and cleaned more quickly than a larger room.
Do the Winix 5500-2 & 5300-2 produce ozone?
As I explained in this post, standard purifiers that use filters (and not electronic air cleaning methods) don’t normally add anything unhealthy to the air. They don’t produce emissions, gases, or by-products.
The 5500-2 and 5300-2 models do NOT produce ozone so there’s nothing to worry about. In fact there’s a notice about this printed on the box.
In fact, Winix America has the Air Resources Board (ARB) verification certifying that it meets federal ozone emission limits (in this case, basically zero emissions).
Filters, upkeep, and maintenance costs
Shown: The air cleaner’s filter sections, with their names. 1. A permanent pre-filter used to catch larger elements like dust, hair, and more. It can be washed then reused. 2. The AOC odor-absorbing filter which is a unique design containing real activated carbon pellets inside a “honeycomb” like frame. 3. The true HEPA filter that traps super-fine particles, pet dander, dust mites, and much more down to microscope sizes.
As I mentioned at the beginning, 3 types of filters are used:
- Washable (permanent, reusable) prefilter
- AOC odor control filter
- The High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter
1. Reusable prefilter
The prefilter is unique in that instead of being built being coated with the odor-absorbing chemical most brands (and the 5300-2 model) use, it’s a single reusable screen you can easily remove and wash. It helps to extend the life of the other 2 if you do so, by the way (14 days is the recommended check/wash interval).
2. High-performance AOC odor & VOC filter
What’s pretty cool is the AOC filter I mentioned: it’s pretty unique and very effective. The frame is much like a honeycomb, made up of small “cells” in which real, solid activated carbon pellets are held loosely. There’s a mesh material on each side to keep them in place.
Winix recommends removing the AOC filter and rinsing it with room temperature water every 3 months or so to prepare it for more use (up to the 12 month life rating).
While you might be thinking it’s only there to help with odors, it isn’t. In fact, it’s helpful for trapping volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemical substances in the air that can cause both discomfort, headaches, and even health problems.
3. HEPA filter
And finally, there’s the true HEPA filter. Based on the industry-standard HEPA filter specification, it can permanently trap up to 99.97% of all particulates down to an incredibly small 0.3 microns in size!
That’s less than 1/100,000th of a meter in size – microscopic, in fact!
As I mentioned earlier in the section where I covered controls, there’s a filter reminder which illuminates after 3 months to let you know it’s time to check the filters.
Here’s the maintenance schedule as listed in the owner’s manual:
|Filter||Indicator light||When to clean||When to replace|
|Pre-filter||N/A||Clean every 14 days||(Permanent filter)|
|AOC carbon filter||Check filter light||Clean every 3 months||12 months|
|HEPA filter||Check filter light||N/A||12 months|
Ultimately, you want to check the filters and depending on your needs they may or may not need cleaning. The AOC odor-absorbing carbon filter and the HEPA filter last up to about 12 months then they’ll need replacement.
(Note: If the HEPA filter isn’t really completely used up, it may be possible to extend its life a bit more)
For best results, the company recommends rinsing the AOC filter under clean water every 3 months and similar for the washable prefilter every 14 days. Maintenance is pretty easy to do and I found it pretty simple as well.
Replacement filters & maintenance costs
While there are some aftermarket brands available for the 5300-2 model for a bit less money than the original, I wasn’t able to find the same for the 5500.
When replacement time comes you’ll need to pick up the type “H” filter set, sold as a pair. Expect to pay roughly $50-$79. While that may seem like a bit more costly, don’t forget that you’re getting 12 months worth of use out of it!
That’s roughly close to $5/month for having clean, fresh air at home.
How to install & replace filters
Fresh out of the box and getting set up. To get started, you’ll need to open the purifier, remove the new filters from the sealed bags, and put them back into place. It only takes a few minutes, though. Easy to do.
When my purifier arrived and I unboxed I followed the instructions shown in the nice little “quick start guide” sheet it came with. This is basically just removing the front cover, removing the AOC and HEPA filters from the sealed bags, and then putting them back into place.
It’s really simple and no hassle at all so there’s nothing to worry about there.
Filter replacement is actually very simple and only takes a few minutes.
It’s just a few steps:
- Open the front cover
- Install the HEPA filter
- Install the AOC carbon filter
- Insert & snap in the prefilter
- Close the front cover and secure it using the magnetic latches
Did I mention the Winix design uses a really cool magnetic latch feature for the front cover? If not, I should have.
Magnetic latches on the grill and body are one of the best design features I’ve seen yet on a purifier. They’re a snap to use – literally!
Unlike other products, there are no plastic tabs to break or worry about. There’s a small metal plate on the inside of the front cover (which covers the prefilter) that touches and connects to the magnets located inside the body at the top.
It’s a well thought out touch. Obviously, if you’re able to wash and inspect the prefilter and carbon filter as I mentioned it makes sense to have a design that lasts.
Owner’s manual quality
Both the owner’s manual and quick start guide are clear, well-written, and are helpful. However, in a few cases I felt like a bit of information was missing.
For example, there aren’t any details provided for the PlasmaWave feature like what it is and how it works. Unlike Honeywell and a few other companies, there’s no convenient company customer support phone number and email contact information easily seen when the box is opened.
It’s not really a huge deal, but I know that some people have questions they need help with so it would have been nice. At any rate, the instructions are pretty good and will tell you all you need to know to use and maintain it.
Noise levels during use (measured)
I prefer to personally measure, record, and verify noise levels of the products I test. I used my sound level meter get a consistent measurement you’ll find in typical real-world use. After doing many air cleaning product tests it’s a great way to have numbers to compare with.
I measured volume levels using a nice digital decibel sound level meter at 1 meter (3.28 ft) from the purifier. Here’s what I found:
|Off (room noise)||39.3|
Honestly, the 5500 is hands-down one of the quietest purifier’s I’ve owned! The Sleep mode (which runs at the low speed setting) is super quiet.
And that’s coming from me, a person who’s very picky and susceptible to nearly all noises.
Even the medium and high speeds are still well below the average noise levels of many other purifiers based on my measurements. Turbo mode, as expected, however is very noticeable but still has a nice “roar” when in use.
What’s especially cool – and unexpected – is that when changing speeds it doesn’t have a “harsh” adjustment; it ramps up or down gradually to the next speed you’ve selected. Very classy!
As I always do for those of you out there like me who are sensitive to light when sleeping, I checked out the brightness in a darkened room.
I tested both manual mode (the control panel lights stay on) and Auto mode (which will go into Sleep mode when the room is dark).
Light levels are low and nice – not too bright at all. There’s a bit of glow in the room as you might expect, but certainly not enough to keep you or your kids awake at night.
When it’s in Auto mode and the room’s lights are switched off, after a moment it will automatically go into Sleep mode (with the ultra-quiet fan speed) and only the sleep mode indicator will be lit. All other panel lights turn off.
Pretty nice to have, if you ask me: no need to get out of bed to do it yourself.
Review summary & score: Is it a good buy?
I’m happy to report the Winix 5500-2 is one of the highest quality and best-performing purifiers I’ve tested yet. Without a doubt I can recommend it as a smart buy.
If you love convenience, and hassle-free operation along with the ability to wash the filters – not to mention very long filter life and excellent odor control – don’t pass this one up!
Without a doubt it’s a winner! Don’t just take my word for it – check out the fantastic buyer reviews and the great savings you'll get at Amazon.
Quality - 9.4/10
Value - 9.4/10
Ease of use - 9.6/10
Air cleaning ability - 9.8/10
Features - 9/10
Noise levels - 9.9/10
A great performer with features you'll love. One of the best money can buy for odor control, too.
Much like its sibling the 5300-2, the Winix 5500-2 provides up to 360 sq. ft. of well-designed air cleaning. Both offer a 12 month true HEPA filter and permanent washable prefilter. However, it also improves on the 5300 by offering a remote control and one of the best activated carbon filters I’ve seen on a production purifier.
It’s also hands-down one of the lowest-noise models I’ve used but still offers a high speed Turbo mode. The advanced features are great: The light sensor places it in ultra-quiet Sleep mode at night and an air sensor for self-controlled fan speed based on air quality. It’s a great purifier and one you shouldn’t pass up.
- 360 sq ft coverage (med.-large rooms)
- AHAM certified CADR ratings: 232/243/246
- No irritating ozone produced
- Electronic touch controls
- Self-regulating air sensor option
- Air quality level indicator light
- Super quiet operation
- Turbo high speed mode
- Remote control
- PlasmaWave air cleaning feature
- 1, 4, & 8 hr auto timer
- Reusable/washable prefilter
- Great AOC (active carbon) filter
- AOC filter is rinseable under water
- Easy filter maintenance
- 12 month carbon & HEPA filter life
- Filter reminder light
- Light sensor for auto Sleep mode when dark
- Ultra-quiet sleep mode
- Remote control could be better quality
- Remote has no PlasmaWave button
- Can’t switch off control chime sounds
- No additional colors available
- Instructions don’t explain PlasmaWave details
- Limited to 3 timer choices
- No smart phone control
- Limited 3rd party filter options