Shopping for a quality air purifier and looking for recommendations?
We’ll keep this simple: Winix 5500-2. (or Winix C555, the updated Costco version).
Overall performance is simply unbeatable, even by air purifiers at higher price points. Our tests consistently demonstrate effective removal of PM2.5 particles. Specifically running the 5500-2 for over a year in a great room has kept the AQI (air quality index) below 10, even on smoke-filled days here in the San Francisco Bay Area due to the wildfires. One caveat: AQI does spike when we cook in the kitchen or open exterior doors, however, the Winix air sensor detects the reduction in quality, turns red (see photos below), and kicks the fan into high gear to quickly get things back under control.
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to air purifiers — especially as more companies get into the market because of climate change and increasing awareness of maintaining healthy indoor air for the family. For about 18 months we’ve been testing a bunch, including ones from brands like Coway, Brondell, Blueair, Molekule, Levoit, RabbitAir, among many others. You might want to check out the round-up of the Stark Insider Top 5 Best air purifiers.
This Winix air purifier impresses for several reasons.
Winix 5500-2 (C555): Standout Features
First up, the 5500-2 and C555 are fully automatic. The air sensor is accurate and sensitive enough that it will kick in as needed, but not drive you nuts by doing so unnecessarily. A bright light bar on the top control panel indicates current air quality level (blue, orange, red). So with the 5500-2 (C555) it’s really a set it and forget it affair.
Regarding noise level, here the Winix is also on point. On fan speed 1 it’s among the quietest of all the brands we’ve tested (and on par with the Coway AP1512HH, another popular option in this price class). Yes, on the higher speeds you will notice the noise. And that’s because this thing has a powerful blower, and can move lots of air quickly when needed. However, for most of the time, for most households, the 5500-2/C555 runs in a lower speed and is hardly noticeable.
Further, there’s a sleep mode. On this model this setting is triggered by a light sensor. When the room gets dark, lights on the front panel shut off, and the fan steps down to ultra-quiet. I’m a sensitive sleeper and I don’t notice it at all. In fact, you need to get very close to even hear the whisper-like movement of air. I really like the Winix implementation here, and sleep modes aren’t found across all air purifiers, and when you do find the feature, it usually doesn’t work as well as what you’ll find on the 5500-2. Slick.
Winix 5500-2 (C555): Air Purification Process
What about the air purification process itself?
There are four stages:
- A washable pre-filter
- Activated carbon filter (with real carbon bits, not simply a less effective sheet)
- HEPA filter
- UVC light filter ionizer (“Plasmawave”, which can be turned off for those concerned about ozone)
Most of the above is standard for air purifiers at this price point. Do note that the activated carbon filter is the real deal (and is partially why this one is more expensive than other models) and contains real bits of carbon. This makes a substantial difference in our experience when it comes to removing VOCs, wildfire smoke, cooking odors, etc.
Here’s a look at filters, in order: pre-filter, activated carbon filter, and HEPA filter:
Now here’s the obligatory before-and-after photo of a filter replacement (as so many people love posting on Amazon):
I guess I don’t need to say more on this topic!
Winix 5500-2: Energy Consumption and Annual Running Costs
Again, Winix ticks the right boxes here. By my estimation running the 5500-2 will cost about $9 USD annually. Keep in mind electricity costs are high here in California so that might be significantly less for you. In any case this unit is Energy Star certified. At max fan speed the unit draws about 42 watts, though at the standard operating speed the number drops to a very palatable 5.2 watts.
Note that this model is not smartplug compatible, meaning the 5500-2 does not remember its state when power is cut. So when the power goes out (or the unit unplugged) and then goes back on, the Winix remains off. Other manufacturers actually remember the fan state and resume when powered back on (Coway air purifiers, for instance).
Replacement filters run about $60 USD (carbon + HEPA) so expect to pay $120 annually if you follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for replacement intervals. At six months you may want to visually inspect the HEPA filter. If your environment is cleaner than most you may be able to go longer. But do clean the pre-filter (vacuum, clean with damp cloth) at least every month or so.
Winix 5500-2: The One Thing I Don’t Like
I’m not a fan of the design of the 5500-2. Aesthetically it sort of feels like a 1990’s time machine; certainly feels more like an appliance of yesteryear than, say, a Google Nest speaker or Amazon Echo, what with their slick fabric-based designs and beautifully crafted shapes. On the other hand, this, of course, does not impact performance. And it’s all in the eye of the beholder as they say.
But this is where the Winix C555 comes in.
Costco carries the C555 which, so far as I can tell, is identical to the 5500-2 save for the casing. The C555 is much, much better looking. Finished in white, with modern flare, this would be my pick if you want something that blends easier into most decors.
Winix 5500-2 (C555): Highly Recommended
By now you can tell we highly recommend the Winix 5500-2 (Amazon) and Winix C555 (Costco). For about $169 USD you get a high performance air purifier with superb performance, a super silent sleep mode, and simple, but effective design that makes it a snap to change filters (takes about 2 minutes).
Energy consumption is excellent given the performance, and to round it all off, a convenient carrying handle at the back of the unit makes moving the Winix from room to room a snap.
Whether it’s wildfire smoke, pets, cooking odors, allergies, or concerns about dust from construction projects, we would definitely recommend adding the Winix 5500-2 and Winix C555 to your short list of air purifiers to consider.