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smart air quality monitor

Air Quality Monitors: An Essential Buying Guide

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Feb 21, 2023

Did you know that the air you breathe daily inside your home may be up to five times worse than outdoor air? Most of us equate air pollution with dense urban cities and industrial factories. Recent scientific evidence proves that poor indoor air quality affects people in all areas, regardless of whether the homes are in rural or highly industrial areas.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the hidden dangers lurking inside the air in their homes. Finding ways to detect the specific air pollutant levels inside your home is the first step in taking practical steps to reduce the concentration of air contaminants ruining indoor air quality. In this article, we'll discuss air quality monitors as an easy solution to this problem. Learn what air quality monitors do, what features to look for, and how to choose the right product for your home's unique environment.

Table of Contents

  1. Do most homes have poor indoor air quality?
  2. What is an air quality monitor?
  3. What do indoor air quality monitors do?
  4. What are common air quality monitor features?
  5. Who needs a smart air quality monitor?
  6. How do air quality monitors work?
  7. How are smart air quality monitors powered?
  8. Are smart air quality monitors easy to set up?
  9. How much do indoor air quality monitors costs?
  10. Should I get an indoor air quality monitor?
  11. What is the best indoor air quality monitor?

Do most homes have poor indoor air quality?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the air within our homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Because the average person spends approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, the air we breathe inside our homes may be one of our most severe health risks.

Daily, you may be exposed to dozens of dangerous and potentially carcinogenic air pollutants inside your home. Some of the most common indoor air pollutants affecting homeowners across North America include:

·         asbestos

·         biological pollutants

·         carbon monoxide

·         formaldehyde

·         lead

·         nitrogen dioxide (no2)

·         pesticides

·         radon (rn)

·         indoor particulate matter

·         secondhand smoke/environmental tobacco smoke

·         volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

·         wood smoke

Airthings Wave Plus Smart Indoor Air Quality Monitor with Radon Detection
Airthings Wave Plus Smart Indoor Air Quality Monitor with Radon Detection

What is an air quality monitor?

An air quality monitor is a simple household device used to measure the level of common air pollutants and contaminants that negatively affect indoor air quality.

Most indoor air quality monitors rely on delicate sensors that measure parts-per-billion (ppb) levels for several of the most common and dangerous indoor air contaminants. One part per billion is equivalent to one drop of impurity in 500 barrels of water. Most air quality monitors on the market today are smart home devices that connect to your smart home hub and can be accessed via a smartphone app.

Aranet4 Home: Wireless Indoor Air Quality Monitor
Aranet4 Home: Wireless Indoor Air Quality Monitor

What do indoor air quality monitors do?

Most air quality monitors include several sensors that can determine air conditions in your home. This data is displayed with a simple interface, which can be displayed on a screen or mobile app. This data could include temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) concentrations, other gases' existence, and particulate matter levels in your interior air.  

Several indoor air contaminants thrive in indoor settings when temperature and humidity levels are not ideal. A connected smart indoor air quality monitor will give you real-time information regarding these conditions inside your home. Suppose humidity levels are high and could contribute to mold or mildew growth. In that case, you should also be able to connect your smart dehumidifier automatically to turn on when a certain threshold is met.

The best air quality monitors on the market can measure particulate matter of 2.5 microns (a.k.a. PM2. 5). This particle size is hazardous as it can penetrate the lungs and lead to serious health problems. Given the many chemicals in our homes, air quality monitors today should be able to monitor several types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

AirVisual Pro
AirVisual Pro

What are common air quality monitor features?

An air quality monitor should clearly measure your home's interior environment. It is essential to look for products that can accurately calculate the levels of small particulate matter (ideally PM2.5). You will also want to prioritize monitors that can give accurate readings for VOC levels, including formaldehyde (HCHO), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and radon gas.

As we mentioned above, most air quality monitors incorporate smart technology, alerting you whenever abnormally high levels of specific indoor air pollutants are detected. Several indoor air monitors will send you alerts and will recommend when action is necessary to clean the air. A color-coded system based on air quality levels is often helpful as it gives homeowners a simple understanding of when their indoor air may be compromised.

TruSens SensorPod air quality monitor
TruSens SensorPod air quality monitor

Who needs a smart air quality monitor?

People with asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems should consider investing in an air quality monitor. However, air quality monitors are also highly advantageous to every homeowner. 

Recent studies by The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) determine that formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, naphthalene, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), radon, lead, and organophosphate pesticides are the most dangerous (and unfortunately most prevalent) indoor air contaminants. These hazardous indoor air pollutants can cause serious health problems to everyone, including those who do not currently suffer from respiratory issues.

How do air quality monitors work?

Air quality monitors measure the reduction of the value of infrared radiation in the air. For example, the higher the carbon dioxide levels, the more infrared radiation is reduced in value. Electronics in the sensor will then evaluate, detect, and measure the CO2 levels inside your home.

How are smart air quality monitors powered?

Air quality monitors use negligible energy and are plugged into an outlet or powered by a battery. Putting several air quality monitors around your home may help you save money on heating and cooling costs. Air monitors can help you detect when your HVAC equipment is not working correctly or efficiently, and this can, in turn, help you make needed repairs or maintenance to ensure optimum energy efficiency.

uHoo Smart Air Monitor
uHoo Smart Air Monitor

Are smart air quality monitors easy to set up?

Yes! Most indoor air quality monitors are "plug and play" devices for sale today. Installing an indoor air quality monitor is as easy as plugging it in. If you opt for a smart air quality monitor, you may also have to download the app and ensure the device is compatible with your existing smart home hub.

How much do indoor air quality monitors costs?

Indoor air quality monitors are affordable, costing between $100 and $300. As mentioned above, these devices may pay for themselves by helping you detect inefficiencies and problems with your home's HVAC equipment. And, of course, the improved health that comes with breathing pure and uncontaminated air is priceless.

Should I get an indoor air quality monitor?

An air quality monitor is an easy and relatively affordable tool for improving an essential aspect of your home's safety - indoor air quality.

While we can exert some control over indoor air quality by educating ourselves and making smart, sustainable choices in everything from flooring to bedding, there's always an element beyond our control. And with poor air quality linked to things like cancer and stroke, you want to keep an eye on it. This highlights the main issue: you can't see it. There's only one way to measure indoor air quality, and it doesn't include any of the human senses.

Thankfully, there's a monitor for that! This wave of technology takes the worry out of the 'what ifs' – by registering levels of pollutants in the air and instantly providing you with a variety of granular data, from details of the amount of noise and movement in the house to a simple reading on temperature, fine particulates, chemicals and any other nasties that may be lurking about, largely unnoticed.

What is the best indoor air quality monitor?

And when it comes to shopping for air quality monitors, you'll find that there's quite a selection to choose from. Some top manufacturers include SAF, Airthings, Awair, IQAir, Foobot, Speck, Dylos, TruSens, and uHoo.

·         SAF Aranet4: This device uses non-dispersive infrared sensor (NDIR) technology for the most precise CO2 measurements. In real time, it can monitor CO2, temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric pressure. The devices offer visual and sound alerts when CO2 concentration gets too high.

·         Airthings Wave Plus: Airthings Wave Plus is the first smart indoor air quality monitor with radon detection, designed for homes and populated spaces. Easy to use, understand and install, it is the perfect solution for homeowners, employers, and facility managers to gain complete visibility into six indoor air factors; radon, carbon dioxide (CO2), airborne chemicals (VOCs), humidity, temperature, and air pressure. Battery operated, with 16 months battery life using Bluetooth, Airthings Wave Plus gives you complete control over indoor air quality via the free mobile app (iOS/Android) and online Dashboard with advanced Analytics options. Getting started with the Airthings wave app is easy; create your free profile and then follow the setup guide in the app.

·         Awair: Tracking temperature, humidity, C02, chemicals, and dust, Awair displays these five readings using a color-coded system, so you'll know at a glance if something is off. And let's face it: it's always nice to be reassured by a glance. For added simplicity, Awair connects to an app and recommends improving indoor air quality based on the data it collects. On point with the mid-century modern look, the 'wood and white' unit is constructed with walnut wood and deemed 100% toxin-free.

·         IQAir AirVisual Pro: In a friendly, 'light, and bright design replete with cheerful icons and colors, the AirVisual Pro communicates communicate with outdoor air quality stations to give users a complete picture of indoor and outdoor air quality in terms of temperature, humidity, C02, and particulates. It also communicates with smart homes and other devices, even providing an alert system and a forecast feature to keep you a few days ahead of the outdoor air quality.

·         Foobot: Coming in a minimalist, techie's dream design, this tall, narrow monitor relies on a color code system to give an immediate visual cue to the indoor air quality. Blue for 'breathe easy,' red for 'open a window, stat.' The unit tracks particulate matter suspects, chemical pollutants like VOCs, temperature, and humidity. It also stores all the data and provides charts of various contaminants over time, allowing owners to ascertain the source of problematic air quality and make changes.

·         Speck: With its (very) clever name and simplified purpose, the Speck monitor tracks only fine particulate matter. Providing an easy-to-decipher, bright touch screen that instantly shows how specific actions impact your air quality, you can have fun playing 'what happens if I': burn a candle, vacuum, open the window, etc.

·         Dylos: The Dylos units (several models) track large and small particulates and store the information for up to 30 days. It uses true laser technology and seems less advanced in terms of the display unit and can communicate with other types of technology than its counterparts listed here.

·         TruSens: Unlike other air monitors, The TruSens SensorPod air quality monitor can actively take steps to help you clean up your indoor air quality. This smart device can communicate with your smart home air purifier to adjust the fan speed as needed.

·      uHoo: Lastly, the uHoo air monitor can monitor nine air quality factors that affect health and well-being with real-time insights, virus index, and smart home integration.

The days when only people with severe allergies or asthma were concerned with indoor air quality are over. People are now aware and informed about the different types of airborne contaminants that can exist indoors and their dangers. To that end, making conscious choices about building materials, finishes, and furniture is only part of the solution. An indoor air quality monitor is the most effective route to get a feel for the air quality in your particular space.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2023-02-22T17:24:34+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.

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