According to Environmental Protection Agency, 96 percent of homes are victim to at least one type of indoor air quality (IAQ) issue. The offending IAQ problem could be tiny dust particles and pollen to cleaning chemicals and paint fumes. When ignored, these contaminants can build up and aggravate allergies, asthma, and cause other health problems. Although poor indoor quality is pervasive among households, many homeowners aren’t even aware of the problem.
Here’s where an indoor air quality monitor can help. Designed to sit in a common area of the home—like the kitchen, bedroom, and family room—it constantly monitors the conditions of the indoor air. These measurements are then displayed on some type of “dashboard,” like a screen that’s built into the device itself or on a companion mobile app on your smartphone or tablet.
Indoor Air Quality Notifications
Of course, who wants to continually pull up an app to make sure nothing is polluting the indoor air? For this reason, most IAQ monitors are able to immediately alert you to a problem by sending a notification to your smartphone or altering the color of an LED light that’s built into the monitor itself.
Many early models of indoor air quality monitors were designed for use by professionals, who would use the information to specify to homeowners certain products like air purifiers, air cleaners, and ventilation systems that could remedy the problem. More recently, manufacturers have designed indoor air quality monitors for use by consumers. No bigger than a box of tissues and designed to blend in with a modern décor, they can sit just about anywhere—a kitchen counter or bathroom vanity, for example—and go virtually unnoticed.
Powered by batteries or an AC outlet, they also portable. You can move the indoor air quality monitor room to room to find out where the bad air exists. Once you identify the severity of the problem, you can take action by changing your habits—like turning on a fan when you cook or opening a window after a bath. If your IAQ monitor is smart enough, you can let it turn on fans, humidifiers, and ventilation systems automatically whenever IAQ measurements reach a certain level.
Most IAQ monitors are priced between $150 and $250, so they won’t break the bank.
Here are the top causes of indoor air pollution that are important for an IAQ monitor to detect:
- PM2.5: very small dust particles
- PM10: larger particles like pollen
- VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): chemical pollutants like cleaners, gasoline, and paint
- Temperature and Humidity: promotes the development of mold and mildew
- Carbon Monoxide (CO): produced by any appliance in your home that burns fuel
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2): released by your home’s heating system
Few IAQ monitors have been engineered to sense all of these elements, so do your homework when selecting one. Choose a model that monitors for the conditions you care most about.
Indoor Air Quality Integration
Knowing that there is an issue is only part of the solution, however. Through integration with other home systems, some IAQ monitors are actually able to help rectify the problem. For example, because the Foobot IAQ monitor is compatible with Nest and ecobee thermostats, it can trigger on a home’s ventilation system automatically when it detects that indoor pollution levels have exceeded the healthy limit.
This integration of IAQ monitors with a complete home automation system is just starting to gain steam. It’s something that a savvy do-it-yourselfer might be able to accomplish by using IFTTT (If This Then That) recipes. Or, you might ask a professional home systems integrator to configure a system for you. Refresh Smart Home, of Mount Kisco, N.Y., for example, offers it homeowner clients a Healthy Home package. Company vice president of business development Don Ham, explains how the system works: “We install an IQAir to the central HVAC system, so when Foobot detects beyond a certain threshold of chemicals, dusts, allergens, or carbon dioxide, it sends a signal to the Nest thermostat to turn on the fan. The fan for the central HVAC system kicks on with the IQAir and starts purifying the air, bringing the quality of the air below the threshold.
The Awair does a similar trick. It can connect to any smart thermostat, such as the Nest thermostat, as well as the Philips hue light bulb, Amazon Echo, and other smart devices.
Here are 7 indoor air quality monitors that you can easily set up yourself:
- Tests for radon, temperature, and humidity
- Uses 2 AA batteries; mounts to the wall
- Wave your hand in front of the detector to receive a color-coded notification: green means the air quality is good and the radon is low; yellow means the air quality could be better, and to open a window; red means air quality is not good and radon levels are high
- View daily, monthly, and yearly reports on your phone via a companion mobile app; receive an email notification of a IAQ problem
- $199.00 (more expensive than most IAQ monitors, but if radon is a concern, it’s a product worth looking at)
Speck from Airviz Inc.
- Tests for PM2.5; a 2.0 version also measures humidity
- Displays readings on its built-in screen and can send them to an app on your mobile device; plugs into an AC outlet
- Displays recent historical data; you can toggle reports over the past 12 hours or past 1 hour of data to see how long it takes for the air quality to stabilize after you cook, for example.
- $149 for Classic Speck; $199 for Speck 2.0
- Tests for CO2, VOCs, PM2.5, temperature, and humidity
- Once it gathers your home’s IAQ data, it provides personalized solutions on how to improve that air. It even manages to learn about your preferences and health conditions over time
- The information is displayed in the Awair app for iOS and Android devices
- Awair offers a slightly different model, called the Glow. It tracks all the same factors as the flagship model, except for dust, offers a few extra features. You can plug any “non-smart” device into the front of Glow (which plugs into an AC outlet), such as fans, air purifiers, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, lamps, portable heaters, humidifiers, air purifiers, and more. Using the app you tell the Glow to activate the connected device based on IAQ readings, motion or time of day.
- $199 for Awair; $99 for Glow
Healthy Home Coach from Netatmo
- Tests for CO2, humidity, temperature, and noise
- Provides visual indication of IAQ via built in LED strip; also sends notification to mobile app, which provides advice on how to improve the IAQ
- Is Apple HomeKit compatible so it can trigger other HomeKit devices based on the IAQ conditions
- Several Healthy Home Coach devices can be connected and monitored under a single app
- You can create special IAQ profiles for a baby, person with asthma, and general
- Tests for PM2.5, VOCs, CO2, temperature, and humidity
- Displays data about the air quality on a mobile app
- Blue Aware monitor is a companion piece to Blueair’s Sense+ air purifier. Using the information supplied by the monitor, you can logical decisions about how fast to run the air purifier’s fan, for example. Because the air purifier communicates via Wi-Fi, you can control it from your smartphone.
- The air purifier can also take cues from Blueair’s Air View monitoring service, which identifies contaminants in the outdoor air.
- $199 for BlueAware; $450-$499 for Sense+ air purifier
- Tests for VOCs, temperature, and humidity
- Connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to display data about the indoor air quality
- Can review stats by the hour, day, week, and month
- Is HomeKit-enabled so you can ask Siri for current readings and use Eve to connect with other HomeKit devices
- Elgato also makes other sensors that can provide a deeper look at your home environment. Eve Room and these other sensors can all be monitored via the same app
- Eve Weather is an indoor/outdoor sensor that measures temperature, humidity, and air pressure
- Eve Door & Window is a two-piece sensor that detects whether a door or window is open or closed.
- Eve Energy is a power sensor and switch that can be used to turn an appliance on and off and detect how much power it’s using.
Want your shades lowered? Do it in seconds from a smartphone. Not sure if you locked the door when you left the house or left the garage door open? Again, it’s as easy as pressing a button on your smartphone.
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Air Mentor PRO from CoAsia Microelectronics Corp.
- Tests for PM2.5 and PM10 (larger particles like pollen), VOCs, CO, CO2, temperature, and humidity
- Feeds information to an app via Bluetooth and also provides visual identification of the quality level of the indoor air with colored lighting on the monitor itself
- Records and analyzes the air quality patterns of your indoor air quality and finds short, mid and long term suggestions for you
@Lisa: thank you for this amazing starting point. I live in Montreal and I’m recently better informed on cancer and the impact of air pollution. It seems that none of those monitor would track it all. Would you know a solution, even if more expensive that would track it all? If I’m not mistaken the most relevant elements to track would be: radon, PM2.5, PM10, VOCs, CO and CO2. I guess I would simply by more than one in the worst case scenario. Thank you.
Jimmy Otosson says
Hello JF I’ve seen one in CES called Sensio Air, they haven’t released their product to consumers yet, but they do have an app and other solutions. What is certain is that their tech is far beyond gadgets
Max Jones says
My wife and I have been doing some research about some ways that we can have a healthier home, and something that we came across that I thought was interesting was improving our indoor air quality! I hadn’t thought about air quality in our home before, and I think that being able to know what the pollutants are like you said would be helpful! I’m glad you talked about pollen and dust being air pollutants, and how you can get monitors to help watch these conditions. I’m going to have to see if I can find a good indoor air quality monitor and figure out how we can make our home healthier and safer!
Craig D Hargrove says
Most homes are wi fi fitted thus the device only act as receptor leaving the intreptation to the software down loaded on to computers or smart phone applications, the later being priopriatary. What for us non science majors is a concern is partical contaminents, lead, mold, asbestis, chemicals from attached garages that share a common attic where there is a shared HVAC unit. Further the use of chemicals in cleaning, plumbing, bug sprays and perhaps some of my wifes perfumes (just kidding) can lead to contamination. What I foresee is a rechargable unit that can be placed in an attic – heat ranges to 175 to – 20, placed in a baby’s room kitchen bathroom and unairconditioned garage. Is there such a unit in production? Thanks, Craig D. Hargrove, M.B.A.