Winix PlasmaWave 5000 Air Purifier Review

Winix Air Cleaner WAC-5000 $299.00 suggested retail

Recently, while browsing the Fry's Electronics superstore in Austin, I spied three modern Asian-designed air purifiers on display; a Sharp Plasmacluster (Japan), a RabbitAir (Japan - Mitsubishi), and a Winix 5000 PlasmaWave.

My first thought was "Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Hyundai Sonata."

The Koreans have made a place for themselves, copying leading Japanese products with quality better than the Chinese, who are trying hard to repeat the Korean example.

Winix Plasmawave has achieved significant market penetration which initially included Fry's, Target, Best Buy, Costco, and, which carries only better quality air cleaners, has picked up Winix and put a 4 star rating on the PlasmaWaves.

As new air purifiers work their way into an extremely overcrowded marketplace, some vendors will eliminate or drop-ship product without actually stocking the item. Expect to see this list of vendors thinned some as time goes on.

But hey, the Hyundai Sonata is a perennial contender in the mid-size sedan market, so let's review what is known about the Korean mid-sized air cleaner, Winix 5000 Plasmawave.

Winix 5000 is Fully Automated

I harp continually about the need for established air purifier manufacturers to implement electronic automated user interfaces.

Digital sensors for dust and odor, controlling low voltage fan speed automatically, lower the cost of air cleaner operation and the sound level, a key benchmark.

winix 5000 purifier

These three machines, Sharp, Mitsubishi, and Winix, are a model for future air cleaning products, which will only get thinner, quieter, and more effective.

The Chinese will copy these leaders, eventually matching American and European quality at lower cost.

Today's higher cost, manually switched U.S./Euro-built market leaders will follow our automakers, witnessing increasing market share for the Winix 5000 and its progeny.

The PlasmaWave 5000 has digital "smart" dust and odor sensors, which raise and lower the low-voltage fan through 5 speeds when auto mode is selected. This allows the 5000 to idle quietly once any burst of airborne impurities has been swept, and speed up when someone opens a door and walks across the room, stirring up invisible clouds of dust.

Winix has included the usual bells and whistles found on the leading Japanese brands; a multi-function timer, programmable remote, and sleep mode.

An innovative light sensor puts the 5000 into sleep mode, dimming the control panel lights when the room is dark.

Energy saving mode restricts PlasmaWave's fan speed to level three.

Winix also features a filter change reminder lamp, a timer rather than a true pressure sensor.

Some Winix 5000 user reviews have reported good odor detection, but inadequate sensitivity to dust. This could be due to dirty sensor ports, which may require vacuuming in dusty rooms.

As the PlasmaWaves age, we'll get more user input on this. This purifier has two sensor sensitivity settings - users should look behind the face plate for the small toggle with low and high sensitivity settings.

PlasmaWave: Five-Stage Filtration

On the 5000 PlasmaWave, Winix includes a washable anti-bacterial pre-filter, a true-HEPA filter, Nano-Silver anti-microbial mesh, washable carbon filter and the PlasmaWave ionizer. winix 5000 filter Winix PlasmaWave's ionizer creates hydroxyl radicals, strong oxidizers, which destroy airborne viruses, bacteria, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).

This type system has been proven effective at removing common household odors in the Sharp Plasmaclusters.

However, I caution users of any oxidative air cleaning machine to avoid close proximity to the machine while plasma mode is operational. I leave my Sharp Plasmacluster on plasma mode only while I am out of the bedroom where it runs 24/7.

Secondly, some users of plasma oxidizer air purifiers have found out the hard way that an air purifier is not a cure-all for a toxic home - sources must be removed.

A notable case involved a lady who repainted a dresser in her bedroom, noticed a funny odor (Surprise!), and installed a plasma oxidizer air cleaner expecting an instant remedy.

Surprise again!

The oxidizer, when confronted with an overwhelming source emission, contaminated the room with a coating of persistent smelly partially-oxidized byproducts.

A traditional carbon based filter would probably also fail this test, needing expensive new filters every few days. The paint would probably linger for weeks, but no partial decomposition products would be produced.

Source removal is vitally important, no air cleaner can cope with continuous toxic source emissions.

Winix 5000 uses a "Replaceable Cassette" with combined filters, they are not sold independently. PlasmaWave will loose a couple points in this review - package filters like this are a no-no.

The cassette sells for about $90.

Your results will vary by contaminant level and intensity of use, but the company recommends complete filter replacement once a year.

It looks like this is one area where the company is passing costs on to consumers - filter life is shorter than the above mentioned competitors.

The "Washable Anti-Bacterial Pre-Filter" is a screen, with apertures smaller than ordinary window screening, which snaps out for cleaning.

Bigger airborne fragments like pet hair and lint will accumulate visibly on the screen, depending on your environment.

An old toothbrush will clean these up quickly.

Winix's true-HEPA Filter is advertised to capture "99.99% of particles and impurities as small as .3 microns." I suspect this is just a marketing error.

.3 microns is the most difficult size (most penetrating particle) for HEPA filaments to snare, smaller particles to .1 micron will be captured with greater efficiency than the .3 micron size.

These communication errors are very common for Asian exporters, whose marketing jargon has to be translated into other languages.

The PlasmaWaves Nano-Silver Mesh is coated with silver particles one billionth of a meter in size, damaging the cell walls of bacteria which land on it.

The filter cassette holds Winix's washable carbon filter, removable from the rear of the box with plastic clips. No specification of carbon weight is provided, and these washable carbon filters have tended to get skinnier over time.

By hefting the filter in my hand, I estimate about 14 ounces of carbon are present.

Activated granular carbon adsorbs chemical vapors and odors, which will wash out to some degree.

The 5000s come with "three extra carbon" filters emblazoned on the box. Apparently carbon is wearing out much faster than HEPA.

Where there is heavy contamination, such as tobacco smoke, the entire cassette will need to be replaced often.

Winix marketing is, in my opinion, quite optimistic about the 5000's ability to clear tobacco smoke pollution on a long term basis.

Smokers considering Winix might look to the 9000 model.

The PlasmaWave wires are next, generating negatively and positively charged ions that in the presence of water vapor become hydroxyl radical oxidizers.

Like other plasma air purifiers, Winixes emit a ticking sound as the wires cycle on and off. This is a light pinging noise of hot metal contracting, but is not a sign of mechanical failure within the machine.


5000S and 5000B

The Winix 5000 series includes two siblings, which may confuse consumers.

5000S by Winix is a scaled down version of 5000 PlasmaWave.

AHAM certified CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) for the 5000S is 126 Dust, 117 Pollen, 138 Smoke.

This compares to 5000 CADRs at 184 Dust, 175 Pollen, 197 Smoke.

Room size is advertised as 180 square feet for the S model verses 270 square feet for the standard 5000 PlasmaWaves.

I recommend Winix 5000 for 180 square foot rooms, and consider any machine with near-100 CADRs, like 5000S, too weak to serve as a stand alone air cleaner - but suitable for use in conjunction with another air purifier.

The cost-cutter version, 5000B, differs from the 5000 in not having the replaceable cassette combined filters. Instead there is a HEPA-type (NOT true-HEPA) filter with carbon mesh prefilter.

5000B has only one sensor - odor - and comes in "graphite" color (black?) rather than silver, has no timer, and features always-on PlasmaWave hydroxyl generator.

The B model has the same CADR numbers as the full sized 5000.

Because the oxidizer is not user-controllable, and the filter is substandard, I do not recommend this less expensive 5000B version of the PlasmaWave 5000.

EnergyStar Certified

PlasmaWave is EPA EnergyStar certified, a DC Motor burns just 6 watts on low speed and 70 watts on turbo.

Because the Winix Plasmawaves emit radio frequency energy, the air purifier may interfere with TV reception if placed near the set. It seems prudent not to place it near sitting or sleeping areas either. I turn off the Plasmacluster function on my Sharp while sleeping.

Measuring 16.3 by 8.5 by 21.7 inches, Winix PlasmaWave 5000 is about 15% smaller than the two class leaders. At 17 lbs, it is portable for use in multiple rooms.

Metallic Silver is the only color.

Although there is little mention of ozone in the sales literature, there is an "ozone-free" label on the box, and a bar graph on the company website asserts "4 parts per billion."

Winix Corporate and Warranty

Corporate headquarters;

>Winix, Inc.
3-Na #607 Sihwa Industrial Complex,
Chungwang-Dong Shiheung City,
South Korea 1280-10

PlasmaWave air purifiers are distributed in the U.S. from suburban Chicago;

Winix Inc.
2500 W. Higgins Rd., Suite 610
Hoffman Estates, IL 60195

There is a one year limited warranty:

"If this air cleaner fails due to defects in material or workmanship within one year from the date of purchase, return it to place of purchase and you will receive a new one free of charge."

Air-Purifier-Power Rating

Each of ten factors gets up to 10 points, 100 is perfect and very unlikely.

1. First do no harm; minimal out gassing, no ozone.

Score: 10 of 10, builder says their ozone levels are "safe", sensitive persons should use oxidizer function when away from unit.

2. Serious gas and odor removal is a requirement if health benefits are expected: Units with real carbon VOC capability rank higher.

Score: 9 of 10, washable carbon filter combined with plasma ion-oxidizers, mid-powered.

3. Quality construction; case, gaskets, seals, and precision fitting eliminate bypassing and assure high efficiency at filtering sub-micron particles.

Score: 8 of 10, filter basket system has plastic seals which suggest leakage.

4. The design maximizes the lifespan of each filter stage by allowing independent filter replacement. Ideally this is combined with electronic filter monitoring.

Score: 8 of 10, although filters are marketed as a unit, they are independently replaceable.

5. Unit has long filter life, low maintenance requirements, and reasonable operating costs.

Score: 8 of 10, more frequent filter changes than Sharps and RabbitAirs.

6. Purifier produces low noise levels and meaningful air flow rates relative to noise.

Score: 10 of 10, although no actual decibel levels are published, users uniformly report Winnix 5000 is quiet.

7. Manufacturer has a track record, with many units in the field and a reputation for supporting what they sell. Warranty period and average service life are long.

Score: 7 of 10, warranty is only one year.

8. Purifier is a value in terms of price/performance ratio. Every price range should be included, “models above $1,200 are best”, while true, is not useful to most consumers.

Score: 8 of 10, this is the Korean value brand sales proposition, avoid paying full suggested retail.

9. No dirt; unit and manufacturer should be devoid of class-action suits, high returns, recalls, consumer complaints, and legitimate negative consumer reviews.

Score: 8 of 10, Overseas company, but stateside distribution and support from mid-west location (not India).

10. Unit is stylish, portable, comfortable, and convenient for consumer use.

Score: 10 of 10, handy remote, easy interface, modern style.

Air-Purifier-Power Numeric Rating; 86, Value oriented Korea-built competitor in the mid-sized plasma-ionizer class.

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