The 8 Best Air Quality Monitors for Indoor Use in 2019

People spend up to 90% of their time indoors and breathing indoor air.

The most shocking thing is that indoor air quality (IAQ) is often much worse than the air quality outdoors.

In fact, indoor air quality can even achieve levels fifty to one-hundred times worse than outdoor air quality. People never think about the fact that they might be continuously breathing dirty indoor air, day in and day out. 

In the past, air quality monitoring systems used to cost upwards of $10,000-100,000. Now, air quality monitors range in price from as little as $25 to more than $2000 for high-quality professional grade models.

The cheaper models tend to be air particle monitors that measure particulate matter (PM). The mid-priced models usually monitor VOCs, PM, humidity, and other specific pollutants (like formaldehyde, radon, etc.).

The high-priced monitors usually measure multiple gasses like Oxygen (O2), Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) or other specific gasses with extremely high precision.

Higher priced PM monitors are also available which are able to monitor particulate matter with extreme accuracy.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to choose the best air quality monitor for your needs!

Air Quality Monitor on a Desk

Types of Indoor Air Quality Monitors

Particulate Matter (PM) Monitors 

PM 2.5

When looking at PM monitors you will notice two numbers that might at first seem perplexing. The first is PM 2.5 and the second is PM 10. Do not be scared by these numbers. What these numbers mean is actually fairly simple. PM 2.5 means that the particles measured are <2.5 um (microns) in diameter and <10 um for PM 10 monitors. 

To keep things in perspective, a grain of sand is 90 um (microns) in diameter. So, PM 2.5 particles are extremely small. These particles usually consist of combustible particles, organic compounds, and metals. The sources of these particles are cooking, car emissions, dust, chemical reactions, and partial combustion. 

Luckily for us, most particles larger than 2.5 um that we breathe in are actually captured and eliminated by the body. However, PM 2.5 particles actually penetrate the lungs, causing both lung problems and heart problems or aggravating existing heart or lung conditions.

PM 10

Compared to PM 2.5, particles designated as PM 10 are four times as large. That said, the term PM 10 itself includes within it particles that are both PM 10 and less, thus including PM 2.5 particles. Particles that are PM 10 are considered “coarse particles” and opposed to the “fine particles” which are PM 2.5. 

PM 10 particles also come from vehicle emissions as well as dust, soot, pollen, mold, industrial operations, agriculture, construction, and the handling of materials. Some of these particles are captured by the hair and mucus, however, some do find their way to the lungs and heart. If you take PM 10 particles from 10 um to 2.5 um and compare them to PM 2.5 particles, the PM 2.5 particles are more harmful to humans than the PM 10 particles. This is due to the increased likelihood, and thus increased risk, of the smaller (PM 2.5) particles to enter sensitive areas of the human body.

Important Considerations Regarding PM

PM concentrations actually vary as determined by the time of year, location, temperature, and seasons. For example, sulfates are seen more often in the eastern United States as compared to the West and fine particle concentrations increase during the last few months of the year in the West as compared to the East. Rural areas have less particulate matter as compared to suburban and urban areas. Keep these factors in mind while you are monitoring your air quality and be sure to check the seasonal and geographic patterns of whatever pollutants you are trying to measure.

Also note that PM is not the same as PPM (parts per million). In fact, PPM is not a valid measurement for particulate matter. Why? Well, considering that particulate matter can vary in size (unlike gasses) this makes the PPM measurement useless. Thus, the convention is to use mg/m3.

Choosing a PM Monitor

One of the most important considerations when looking for an air quality monitor is to look at the minimum particle size the device can measure. Many low cost and low quality PM sensors can only read particle sizes down to 1.0 um (PM 1). Going below PM 1, almost all standard consumer air quality monitors will not be able to detect much below the 0.5 um mark. In fact, in a study conducted by Berkeley they found two research grade air monitors and 7 consumer grade monitors “substantially under-reported or missed events for which the emitted mass was comprised of particles smaller than 0.3 μm diameter.” (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29683219)  

Another consideration is the reporting feature of the air quality monitor. Most people do not want to continuously check their air monitors and write down the readings. Be sure to get a monitor that automatically records a record and reports the results you’d like to see. Most air quality monitors nowadays can interface with your smartphone and your records can be accessed quickly and easily, so this should also be considered. 

Lastly, consider the room size. Make sure the room is not too big for the particular PM monitor that you are going to buy. This is also an important factor when considering whether or not to get a free-standing air quality monitor versus a handheld air quality monitor. Since many handheld monitors use single-point monitoring, you have to be very careful about choosing where to position the air monitor. Due to ease of use, most people opt for a free-standing unit. 

Formaldehyde Monitors

NO2 Monitors

Lead Monitors

Ozone Monitors

Characteristics of a Good Indoor Air Quality Monitor

The first characteristic to check for in an air quality monitor is its accuracy. Accuracy can mean many things for air quality monitors. For one, monitors should be able to report the correct concentration of whatever gas or pollutant is trying to be measured. Second, the device should also not report erroneous readings or false-positive and false-negative results. Third, the device should respond quickly. A quick response time is usually indicative of a higher quality device. Fourth, the device needs to be sensitive and be able to pick up low levels of the pollutant being measured. Fifth, the results should be repeatable and not grammatically fluctuate at different time intervals. Lastly, the device should already be calibrated and no further calibration should be necessary. 

Another characteristic of a high quality air monitor is its durability. This refers to the quality of the air monitor’s sensor. Although this is often a hard quality to determine, the durability of an air quality monitor is extremely important. As a case in point, when measuring gasses, and ozone in particular, if the sensor is not durable the readings will not be accurate. This is especially true when considering the long-term. Also, exposure to heat, dust, temperature changes, and being dropped or bumped can all have an impact on how long a sensor lasts. 

The device should also be easy to use. If it takes advanced training to use a device because it’s so complex, odds are you are not going to use it either. Be sure to choose a device that has an easy to read interface, is easy to understand, and can be used easily without much training. The report logs from the devices should also follow these same characteristics.

Last but not least, measurements should be taken in realtime from the air quality monitor. This is important because if there is a spike in a pollutant you want to know right away, not several minutes later. Most air quality monitors will have an alert function where you can be notified in the case of a dangerous level of a pollutant.

In the past, air quality monitoring systems used to cost upwards of $10,000-100,000. Now, air quality monitors range in price from as little as $25 to more than $2000 for high-quality professional grade models. The cheaper models tend to be air particle monitors that measure particulate matter (PM). The mid-priced models usually monitor VOCs, PM, humidity, and other specific pollutants (like formaldehyde, radon, etc.). The high-priced monitors usually measure multiple gasses like Oxygen (O2), Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) or other specific gasses with extremely high precision. Higher priced PM monitors are also available which are able to monitor particulate matter with extreme accuracy.

Particulate Matter (PM) Monitors 

PM 2.5

When looking at PM monitors you will notice two numbers that might at first seem perplexing. The first is PM 2.5 and the second is PM 10. Do not be scared by these numbers. What these numbers mean is actually fairly simple. PM 2.5 means that the particles measured are <2.5 um (microns) in diameter and <10 um for PM 10 monitors. 

To keep things in perspective, a grain of sand is 90 um (microns) in diameter. So, PM 2.5 particles are extremely small. These particles usually consist of combustible particles, organic compounds, and metals. The sources of these particles are cooking, car emissions, dust, chemical reactions, and partial combustion. 

Luckily for us, most particles larger than 2.5 um that we breathe in are actually captured and eliminated by the body. However, PM 2.5 particles actually penetrate the lungs, causing both lung problems and heart problems or aggravating existing heart or lung conditions.

PM 10

Compared to PM 2.5, particles designated as PM 10 are four times as large. That said, the term PM 10 itself includes within it particles that are both PM 10 and less, thus including PM 2.5 particles. Particles that are PM 10 are considered “coarse particles” and opposed to the “fine particles” which are PM 2.5. 

PM 10 particles also come from vehicle emissions as well as dust, soot, pollen, mold, industrial operations, agriculture, construction, and the handling of materials. Some of these particles are captured by the hair and mucus, however, some do find their way to the lungs and heart. If you take PM 10 particles from 10 um to 2.5 um and compare them to PM 2.5 particles, the PM 2.5 particles are more harmful to humans than the PM 10 particles. This is due to the increased likelihood, and thus increased risk, of the smaller (PM 2.5) particles to enter sensitive areas of the human body.

Important Considerations Regarding PM

PM concentrations actually vary as determined by the time of year, location, temperature, and seasons. For example, sulfates are seen more often in the eastern United States as compared to the West and fine particle concentrations increase during the last few months of the year in the West as compared to the East. Rural areas have less particulate matter as compared to suburban and urban areas. Keep these factors in mind while you are monitoring your air quality and be sure to check the seasonal and geographic patterns of whatever pollutants you are trying to measure.

Also note that PM is not the same as PPM (parts per million). In fact, PPM is not a valid measurement for particulate matter. Why? Well, considering that particulate matter can vary in size (unlike gasses) this makes the PPM measurement useless. Thus, the convention is to use mg/m3.

Choosing a PM Monitor

One of the most important considerations when looking for an air quality monitor is to look at the minimum particle size the device can measure. Many low cost and low quality PM sensors can only read particle sizes down to 1.0 um (PM 1). Going below PM 1, almost all standard consumer air quality monitors will not be able to detect much below the 0.5 um mark. In fact, in a study conducted by Berkeley they found two research grade air monitors and 7 consumer grade monitors “substantially under-reported or missed events for which the emitted mass was comprised of particles smaller than 0.3 μm diameter.” (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29683219)  

Another consideration is the reporting feature of the air quality monitor. Most people do not want to continuously check their air monitors and write down the readings. Be sure to get a monitor that automatically records a record and reports the results you’d like to see. Most air quality monitors nowadays can interface with your smartphone and your records can be accessed quickly and easily, so this should also be considered. 

Lastly, consider the room size. Make sure the room is not too big for the particular PM monitor that you are going to buy. This is also an important factor when considering whether or not to get a free-standing air quality monitor versus a handheld air quality monitor. Since many handheld monitors use single-point monitoring, you have to be very careful about choosing where to position the air monitor. Due to ease of use, most people opt for a free-standing unit. 

Formaldehyde Monitors

NO2 Monitors

Lead Monitors

Ozone Monitors

Characteristics of a Good Indoor Air Quality Monitor

The first characteristic to check for in an air quality monitor is its accuracy. Accuracy can mean many things for air quality monitors. For one, monitors should be able to report the correct concentration of whatever gas or pollutant is trying to be measured. Second, the device should also not report erroneous readings or false-positive and false-negative results. Third, the device should respond quickly. A quick response time is usually indicative of a higher quality device. Fourth, the device needs to be sensitive and be able to pick up low levels of the pollutant being measured. Fifth, the results should be repeatable and not grammatically fluctuate at different time intervals. Lastly, the device should already be calibrated and no further calibration should be necessary. 

Another characteristic of a high quality air monitor is its durability. This refers to the quality of the air monitor’s sensor. Although this is often a hard quality to determine, the durability of an air quality monitor is extremely important. As a case in point, when measuring gasses, and ozone in particular, if the sensor is not durable the readings will not be accurate. This is especially true when considering the long-term. Also, exposure to heat, dust, temperature changes, and being dropped or bumped can all have an impact on how long a sensor lasts. 

The device should also be easy to use. If it takes advanced training to use a device because it’s so complex, odds are you are not going to use it either. Be sure to choose a device that has an easy to read interface, is easy to understand, and can be used easily without much training. The report logs from the devices should also follow these same characteristics.

Last but not least, measurements should be taken in realtime from the air quality monitor. This is important because if there is a spike in a pollutant you want to know right away, not several minutes later. Most air quality monitors will have an alert function where you can be notified in the case of a dangerous level of a pollutant.

1. Awair Air Quality Monitor (2nd Edition)

Sale Awair 2nd Edition Air Quality Monitor

My review: If you want an air quality monitor that is big on style, look no further than the Awair Air Quality Monitor.

With its wood grain finish and no bigger than an alarm clock, it looks great no matter where you put it.

But it’s not only stylish, it performs well, has a simple and elegant display, and contains all the features you’d want in an air quality monitor.

This device uniquely measures a good range of air quality parameters including PM 2.5, TVOCs, CO2, temperature and humidity. The unique feature is how it displays each of the readouts by using an elegant dotted graphical style. Not only does it look good, but the graph is large and can easily be seen from across the room. It also gives you an overall air quality score, called an “Awair Score,” that’s also easily visible on the display. If you don’t want the world to see your air quality, just a few simple taps on the device and you can easily change the Awair into a digital clock.

One of the highlights of this device is its unique Awair+ technology. With Awair+ and the built-in WiFi on the device, the Awair can connect seamlessly to your smartphone as well as other smart devices including Google Home, Amazon Echo, Nest and others. This gives you the power to be able to control other devices when needed as indicated by your air quality. For instance, if it’s too humid you can set the device to power a dehumidifier at a specified humidity. If it’s not humid enough, power on a humidifier and raise your humidity. You can also power an air purifier if the air quality raised above a certain set point. There are endless possibilities with the Awair if you are keen on building a smart home powered by smart devices.

Another cool feature of this technology is the ability to integrate the device with your smartphone. Though Awair’s user-friendly app, you can easily connect your phone and see your air quality wherever you go. Not only that, but you can also track your air quality parameters over time and see if your air quality is improving or not. This is also useful to see whether or not your air quality is a problem at different times of the day or different seasons of the year.

The app also offers recommendations for how to improve your air quality. Such recommendations include proven tips on how to help you fix air quality issues in your home. You can also get a sleep report that will help improve the quality of your sleep through adjusting your air quality. You can even set up notifications which will help you make the necessary changes at the right time before air quality issues become a concern. This really helps to put you in control of your air quality and ultimately, your health.

Key Features:

  • Stylish and elegant design
  • Display is easy to read
  • Compatible with smart home technology
  • User-friendly smartphone app

2. AirVisual Pro by IQAir

My review: The AirVisual Pro is dubbed the “World’s Smartest Air Quality Monitor.” While that claim is hard to verify, it certainly is the best consumer air quality monitor on the market.

Not only does it has a great interface, it also has great, high-quality sensors. In fact, its PM 2.5 sensor can measure as low as 0.3 microns of particulate matter size. It also has excellent wireless connectivity and boasts the top app for air quality monitors.

This air quality monitor can remain plugged in at home or taken on the go. However, if you are not near a power source the battery in the device only lasts 3.5 hours. That said, if you want to get a quick reading of the outdoor air quality near your home or take it to the job site, it’s a pretty neat feature. 

The sensors in the AirVisual Pro are professional grade sensors. They measure in realtime PM 2.5, CO2, temperature and humidity. Unlike other air quality monitors on the market, however, the AirVisual Pro does not measure VOCs. While this is unfortunate, it is not a dealbreaker. 

For one, VOCs can usually have odors (so you can detect them yourself, usually). Secondly, most consumer grade VOC monitors usually detect both harmful and benign compounds, resulting in false-positives and causing unnecessary concern. Third, PM 2.5 molecules are usually much worse than VOCs. So keep these things in mind if you are dead-set on VOC detection.

The AirVisual Pro is able to measure rooms up to 1076 square feet. The average home is around 2600 square feet. However, the AirVisual Pro can easily be moved around from room to room if you do not feel like purchasing an extra device. Though, it is generally recommended to have one device per floor of your home. 

The interface of the AirVisual Pro is outstanding. Its 5″LED display is also bright, clear, and large enough to see across the room. Not only does it show air quality measurements, but it also shows health recommendations, the WiFi signal, battery life, the time of day, humidity, temperature (both inside and out), indoor vs. outdoor air quality, weather forecast and even an air quality forecast. The PM 10 is not shown on the device monitor itself but it can be viewed in the device’s report. 

The app for the device is rated #1 out of all air quality apps. Much of the same information that is visible on the device is also visible on the app. Additional features include: viewing historical air pollution data, pollutant tracking for live monitoring, ability to create a group to track specific data relative to an illness (ex. asthma), 7-day air pollution forecasts and weather forecasts, and the ability to link air monitors together. 

This device can also be interconnected with other smart devices. It uses an if this then this (IFTTT) applet to integrate with smart home devices. 

All in all, despite its few shortcomings, the AirVisual Pro stands out as the best air quality monitor on the market. Its extraordinary design, interface, features and quality make up for anything that anybody might find lacking. 

Key Features:

  • Easy to use interface
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Forecasts air quality
  • Number 1 rated air quality app

3. AirMentor 2

My review: The AirMentor 2 is an extremely sensitive air monitoring device. In fact, it has 4 industrial grade sensors that the company claims is “comparable to professional laboratory equipment.”

The AirMentor 2 can detect 4 types of pollutants as well as temperature and humidity. 

In addition to detecting VOCs, CO2, PM 2.5 and PM 10, the device can detect CO as well.

While most homes usually have CO detectors, it is still a nice feature to have for some added security and assurance. The sensors themselves are also calibrated and tested before any product is shipped out. A detection of any aberrant levels will send out an alert to the device and the app.

Although the device is not much to brag about in terms of its looks and features, it does have WiFi connectivity and its measurements are able to be viewed in realtime from the monitor’s smartphone app. Through the app users are able to track air quality data, analyze the data, and view suggestions for air quality improvement. 

The device also has a small footprint and can easily be hung on the wall and out of the way. It is also a silent device as it does not contain a fan, for those that do not like hearing the whirring of a device. 

One of the high-points of this device is that it records data every minute and can be sent to the user as an Excel file. Most air quality monitors only track data every 5 minutes. Also, the company claims the device can measure PM 2.5 down to 0. If this is the case, for the money it is certainly the most accurate device on the market. 

The downside to this device is that it is European so technical support might be hard to reach if there are any issues. No technical support website exists either. There is, however, a 1 year warranty on the device. The device can be integrated with an HVAC system either wired or wirelessly, however, there are no details on how this is done. Also, the device lacks a battery so it does need to remain plugged in at all times. 

Key Features:

  • Industrial grade sensors
  • Silent and fanless
  • Records data every minute
  • Can detect CO and formaldehyde

4. Temtop M2000C Air Quality Monitor

My review: The Temtop M2000C is a professional-grade air quality monitor packaged in an easy-to-use format. As a handheld portable air quality monitor, this device can easily be taken with you wherever you go.

Whether you are at the home or the office, or even your car, you can quickly and easily take accurate readings of the air quality around you.

This air quality monitor is able to measure PM 2.5, PM 10, CO2, humidity and temperature.

The readings can easily be seen on the color TFT LCD display which shows graphical readings of the results in realtime. One major benefit of this device is that it can measure PM 2.5, PM 10 and CO2 all the way down to zero. This means it is able to detect the smallest particles which are most likely to cause harm to you and your family.

This device is lightweight, ergonomic and very portable. This means you can easily take it from room to room and monitor your whole house, apartment, or office building. Sometimes one room can have perfect air quality while another room can be hazardous to your health. With this air quality monitor you don’t have to wonder which room might be dangerous. You can also take it and keep it in your car to test pollutant levels there as well. Many times people have problems with harmful pollutants coming into their cars and have no clue about it. This device can stop that from happening.

The Temtop M2000C boots up quickly so you don’t have to wait around for it to load. The user interface is easy to use so you don’t have to be a technical wizard to figure it out. The readings are clearly displayed for each parameter and a color-coded alert bar lets you know the status of the overall air quality.  The device will also alert you if there are any air quality concerns. Navigating the menu is also easy and adjusting the settings is done with a few simple clicks.

The rechargeable battery is convenient as you do not have to worry about constantly changing out the batteries or wondering if your batteries are affecting your readings. It also lasts 6 hours on each charge so you don’t have to worry about it dying on you when you’re using it.

Key Features:

  • Variety of install options
  • Excellent video and audio quality
  • Remote activation and monitoring

5. EG Air Monitor

My review: The EG Air Air Quality Monitor is a small device that is loaded with features. For use as both a portable air monitor or as a standalone device, this air quality monitor is able to detect multiple compounds easily and accurately.

It also has advanced filtration technology that can eliminate interference that may disrupt the accuracy of readings for some harmful pollutants. This is a feature you do not see on most other air quality monitors.

The highlight of this air quality monitor is its advanced sensor technology. This device uses both laser and electrochemical sensors to ensure accurate results. Also, there are built-in fans which help circulate the air to get better readings as well.

Not only is this device capable of detecting volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), PM 2.5, PM 10, temperature and humidity, but it can also detect formaldehyde (HCHO) and PM 1.0. It is even capable of measuring these compounds all the way down to zero. It also auto-calibrates so you do not have to fiddle around with it to get accurate readings.

The formaldehyde detection on this device is worth its weight in gold. Most people do not know they have a formaldehyde problem because you cannot smell it. Formaldehyde detection is extremely important because it is linked to serious illnesses such as lung cancer and nasal cancer. Not only can this monitor detect formaldehyde but its advanced filtering technology makes sure no other compounds can interfere with its detection.

PM 1.0 detection is equally as important as these are very, very small particles. In general, the smaller the particle the more harm it can do to your body. Particles this small can get buried deep inside your lung tissue and can also find their way into your blood stream.

The readout on this device is very clear and easy to see on the color LCD display. There is even a simple chart on the display that shows whether your air quality is good or bad with an arrow that points to your current level of air quality. The menu is slightly difficult to navigate but shouldn’t pose an issue if you are familiar with most technical devices. Recorded readings are also available, however, these can only be viewed in graphical form, not as individual readouts.

This air quality monitor is powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 5 hours while in use. However, it can be plugged in and powered for continuous use through the use of a micro-USB cable.

This device also comes with free 90-day over-the-phone technical support from Amazon as well as a free eBook on gas and air quality.

Key Features:

  • Easy to read display
  • Formaldehyde (HCHO) detection
  • PM 1.0 detection
  • Anti-interference sensor
  • Free 90-day tech support

6. Huma-i Advanced Portable Air Quality Monitor (HI-150)

My review: Don’t let the size of the Huma-i fool you, this handy little device is packed with all the features of the larger air quality monitors.

Its sleek design makes it incredibly portable and its advanced sensors make it stand out amongst the competition. It also boasts a high-quality OLED display which displays nice and brightly the air quality results in realtime.

This is a great device for travelers due to its compact size.

You can easily tuck this device into your purse, backpack or even your pocket and have it with you at all times. It is also perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. Its high quality sensors and fan ensures that the device’s readings are always accurate too. All you have to do is press a button and the device takes a quick snapshot of the air quality around you.

The Huma-i measures PM 2.5, PM 10, TVOCs, CO2, temperature and humidity. It also has a WHO mode which allows users to see the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for fine and ultra-fine dust readings. This mode also allows the device to show a quick and simple emoji to indicates your current level of air quality. This is unique as almost no other device on the market has this mode.

Whether you’re in your car, staying at a hotel, or on an airplane, this device can easily and accurately measure the air quality around you. More importantly, it can keep you safe and help you take the necessary precautions before you breathe in any unclean air or dangerous pollutants.

Key Features:

  • Excellent design
  • High visibility display
  • WHO mode
  • Great for travelers

7. ECOWITT Air Quality Monitor Meter (WH0290)

My review: The Ecowitt air quality monitor really stands out in its simplicity. This device is perfect for the person who wants to measure their air quality easily and without much of a fuss. You do not have to be a tech-savvy to use the Ecowitt and you also don’t have to break the bank, it’s extremely affordable.

This air quality monitor does not do more than it has to, it simply measures your air quality and let’s you know if you are in any danger. This device tests for PM 2.5, temperature and humidity.

As PM 2.5 is arguably one of the most dangerous to human health, this is all a simple air quality monitor needs to be able to detect. Furthermore, it uses a high-quality Honeywell detector so you know you can trust the pollutant levels are very accurate.

Its display is similar to that of a standard alarm clock display. However, the air quality index is visible in color so you can easily see whether you are in the clear (green), at risk (yellow), or in danger (red or above). This is another way the device keeps things simple for you.

The sensor unit itself stands separately from the display and is powered by standard rechargeable batteries. There is, however, a solar-powered backup in case the batteries fail. It then connect wirelessly to the display where you receive the readouts. This is nice because you can easily move the small sensor around without having to lug around the display with it. It’s also nice if you don’t want people to see the sensor as it can easily be hidden behind other objects. However, it does have to be within 300 feet of the monitor or the monitor will not receive its readings.

Overall, a nice budget-friendly device that can be used just as easily as a standard weather monitor.

Key Features:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Monitor and sensor are separate
  • Small in size and easily hidden

8. FooBot

My review: The FooBot air quality monitor has been tested against some of the best indoor air quality monitors for consumers, as well as scientifically validated instruments.

In fact, it was even examined by the Berkeley National Laboratory and found to be one of the best air quality monitors for PM 2.5.

The FooBot is able to measure 3 harmful pollutants as well as temperature and humidity.

The pollutants measured by the FooBot include PM 2.5, VOCs, and CO2. The device lights up orange if harmful levels are detected and glows blue when the air quality is good. It also conveniently connects to your smartphone via the company’s app, compatible with both iOS and Android devices. From the app you can view each measurement in realtime as well as see the air quality over time. 

 

An interesting feature of the FooBot is that it can connect to many different smart devices. The FooBot is compatible with Nest, Honeywell thermostats, Ecobee, and Lux. It can even be controlled by voice through the Amazon Echo. If the device notices pollutants in the air are rising it can turn on your air purifier or ventilation to help reduce the pollutants in the air. It can also trigger the lights to turn on or off as an alert function. 

The FooBot measures particulate matter down to a level of 0.3 um. However, it does not appear the FooBot has a PM 10 measurement. It can also measure up to 1500 square feet of space, much more than the average size apartment. However, for the average sized home, two monitors would be necessary to cover the entire home, and perhaps three air monitors to monitor a 3-level home.  

*Compared to scientifically validated air quality monitoring instruments the FooBot was able to measure PM 2.5 with a tight correlation (R= ~.83, with 1 being a perfect correlation) although it measured PM 2.5 levels a big higher than expected.

Key Features:

  • Rated one of the best PM 2.5 air quality monitors by Berkeley
  • Excellent interconnectivity options
  • Great measurement range
  • Heavily researched by third parties

Polluted Indoor Air and Air Contaminants

Indoor air can contain the following harmful contaminants:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2 or NOX)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals
  • Airborne leads
  • Mercury vapors
  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Dust
  • Dander (pet dander)
  • Endocrine Disruptor Compounds (EDCs)
  • Molds
  • Pollens
  • Fungus
  • Bacteria
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Smoke from fireplace
  • Smoke from cooking
  • Allergens
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Other biologicals
  • Other volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Poor indoor air quality can have many adverse health effects, some of them even life-threatening. The reason most people do not realize that the air they are breathing is causing health problems is that symptoms are usually not seen right away. In fact, it can take a long time before symptoms might present themselves. Also, the symptoms may at first be very subtle and a person might not even notice they are getting sick from the air they are breathing. Sometimes people might just think others’ complaints are just them being whiny or “overly sensitive,” when there might be an actual air quality problem leading to their discomfort.

General Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

The health effects of poor indoor air quality can adversely impact several regions of the body. Most people usually associate poor indoor air with breathing difficulties. While it is true that poor indoor air can affect the upper and lower respiratory systems, it can also affect the brain, endocrine system, skin and many other organs. In fact, poor indoor air quality can lead to a wide range of symptoms including coughing, sneezing, congestion, fatigue, nausea, itching, rashes, neurological impairment, headaches, dizziness, and several others. It can even affect a person’s ability to do basic everyday tasks like working or studying.

Poor Indoor Air Quality Can Cause Cancer

One major concern surrounding indoor air quality is cancer. Although most people are not exposed to very high levels of carcinogens through indoor air, even as far back as 1987 the EPA classified indoor air pollution as the 4th highest risk of 13 environmental problems analyzed at that time (source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1420326X03037109?journalCode=ibeb). 

Much of the research done surrounding indoor air quality and cancer focuses on SVOCs, or semi-volatile organic compounds. The most common types of SVOCs which can cause cancer are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and phthalate esters. These can actually stick to dust, walls, countertops and any other surface. They’re also found free-floating in the air as well. Additionally, most people are exposed to these compounds, they are not rare. Another huge risk is radon. Radon exposure can lead to lung cancer and is actually lung cancer’s second leading cause. Asbestos exposure also causes lung cancer and it is one of the leading causes of mesothelioma. 

Children Are Most at Risk of Health Problems

Although indoor air quality can put any individual at risk for adverse health conditions, children are especially affected. What is more is that children can actually be permanently altered for the rest of theirs lives due to poor indoor air quality. Children are most at risk for the development of asthma. Asthma is often caused by the build-up of moisture in the air as well as mold growth. Children are also at risk through exposure to lead in the air. Lead exposure is usually caused by lead dust from lead-based paints. As little as a few salt granules of lead dust can a child to suffer. Enough exposure can lead to the child having permanent brain damage, among other health problems.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) 

Some people can even suffer from sick building syndrome (SBS) due to bad indoor air quality. Most people suffering from this condition do not realize the cause. Usually they just feel better after going outside. Symptoms of sick building syndrome include headache, fatigue, eye irritation, throat irritation, nose irritation, general irritability, and even lower mental activity. 

Causes of Indoor Air Quality Problems

There are four main causes of indoor air quality problems: indoor pollutant sources, outdoor pollutant sources, poor air ventilation systems, improper or poor building design. Each of these areas (or a combination of all) may be the cause of dirty indoor air. 

  1. Indoor Pollutant Sources

Any pollutant that is created inside the dwelling itself is considered an indoor pollutant. This includes any location indoors as well as anything indoors which can create air pollution. A person can even be considered a pollutant source. 

One of the most common ways indoor air pollutants arise inside the home are through regularly cleaning activities. Many VOCs enter the home through this method. Common cleaners are often not very safe and indicate this on the label. People have gotten so used to seeing the warnings on bottles that they forget that they are introducing pollutants into their homes every time they use these products. Imagine the amount of VOCs generated through the use of cleaning products only over a lifetime of use. Also, dust is generated through cleaning activities such as dusting, sweeping, and even vacuuming. Improper disposal and cleaning of trash can also lead to indoor air contamination. 

Building materials are also a large source of indoor air pollutants. The most likely culprits are paint (lead-based) and carpeting. New carpet or new paint both release VOCs as well. Any type of glue or caulk that is used to seal things together also emits VOCs. Many people do not usually think of furniture being a source of VOCs but furniture is also a source, usually from the glues used in new furniture. Insulation also serves as a pollutant source especially if asbestos is used.

People themselves also create many indoor air pollutants. Activities such as smoking indoors or cooking can give rise to many VOCs as well as carcinogenic compounds. Even having a fitness room in the home may contribute to poor indoor air quality. Also, keeping pets can lead to pet dander, the spread of microbes around the house, as well as the use of pet products which may introduce harmful contaminants into the air.   

  1. Outdoor Pollutant Sources

One of the most obvious sources of outdoor pollutants is outdoor air itself. Pollution of outdoor air is generally caused by human activity. Exhaust from cars, emissions from industrial facilities, chemical plants, agricultural sprays and chemicals, refuse, damaged or poor home or building exhaust systems, are all sources of pollutants created by humans. 

Non-human sources are generally restricted to natural sources and microbes. Natural sources such as volcanic eruptions, smoke from fires, ozone (given off by some trees and plants), debris from rock and soil, dust, and decaying organic material. Microbial air pollutant sources include stagnant water, fungal spores, mold spores, microbes attached to dust particles, viruses, lichen fragments, small seeds, and bacteria. 

How To Diagnose Indoor Air Quality Problems

Diagnosing an indoor air quality issue is not as straightforward as it seems. Most people imagine just plugging in a device and then relaxing to watch a football game. However, like most problems in life, the first step is actually identifying what the problem is. 

Note any noticeable smells and any symptoms you or your family might be experiencing due to the air quality. If your family is experiencing problems, was it after some change in the house? Do they feel the symptoms in a particular room? Do they occur at a particular time of the day or night? Also, see whether or not visitors also complain about the same symptoms when over your house. However, do not perform any of these steps if you feel you or your family is in imminent danger due to an air quality problem. In this case, contact a professional immediately. 

The next step is to diagnose what may be the potential pollutant source. Go through the list of all the indoor and outdoor sources and consider which one might be the most likely. Explore each area of the home as well as the perimeter. Explore the furnace, air conditioning, ventilation, newly renovated areas, etc. If no source is found, examine all the businesses and buildings nearby to see if one of them is a potential pollutant source. 

Only after this step is finished should you buy an air quality monitor or test kit. Why is this step delayed? If you do not know the potential contaminant you do not know what type of test monitor or kit you will need. For instance, some monitors specifically monitor or are more sensitive carbon monoxide, some for radon, some for formaldehyde. No two monitors are built exactly the same or are as sensitive for the same type of pollutants.

One of the potential types of contaminants are singled-out, buy an indoor air monitoring device or kit designed to test those contaminants. In some instances, you may have to get multiple devices or kits. Some kits are able to diagnose the problem in a few days, while others may take several months. 

 

How To Fix An Indoor Air Quality Problem

There are many simple methods available to improve indoor air quality relatively quickly. One of the best ways to improve indoor air quality is to prevent it from becoming a problem in the first place. These preventative measures include AC inspection and maintenance, ventilation system inspection and maintenance, and choosing a proper location as a place of residence. 

  1. A/C Cleaning and Maintenance

Routine inspection and cleaning of air-conditioners should be performed at least once or twice a year. This can be performed by a professional or a homeowner. Cleaning and maintenance consists of vacuuming the inside of the air-conditioning unit or, if it is a window unit, vacuuming the blowers where the air comes out. The coils of the air-conditioning unit will also need to be cleaned as they can collect dirt and other grime. 

Also, the condensate drains should be inspected and cleaned as needed. Build-up in the drains can lead to an increase in humidity in the home which can lead to mold and mildew. Trim away plants or grass that gets too close to the AC unit. Generally this means trimming back anything that is within a two foot radius around the unit. Not only will this reduce potential air pollutants, but it will also increase the efficiency of the air-conditioning unit. 

  1. Ventilation System Inspection and Maintenance

Check for visible build-up in the registers and watch the air as it comes out. Debris coming out of the ventilation system or a build-up of debris near the register could indicate a bigger problem. If there are noticeable signs after this initial check-up, unscrew the register and look down the duct with a flashlight. Alternatively, a flash camera can be used to take a picture and examine the duct. Look for excessive debris, mold, animal droppings, and any other type of build-up in the duct. If there is a large enough build-up, a professional may need to be called. If the debris or build-up is minimal, clean it with a vacuum. 

Also, check the furnace to make sure the filter does not need to be replaced. As a general rule of thumb, furnace filters need to be replaced every 3 months. However, if upon examining the filter there is a visible layer of dust, the filter will need to be replaced. As a precautionary measure, check the filter once a month to get an idea of how fast the filter gets dirty. 

The furnace can also be maintained by cleaning the pilot light, fan, and heat exchange. Using a vacuum with an extended attachment should be sufficient for cleaning the furnace. Also, examine the seals of the ducts and use duct tape to seal any cracks. These activities will ensure the furnace is working properly and keeps it efficient.  

  1. Location

Check the air quality index to find out if air pollution is a problem in your area. If outdoor air pollution is a large enough problem near your home, you may want to consider moving. If the air pollution near you is only of slight to moderate concern, a less drastic solution might be more appropriate, such as purchasing an indoor air purifier or more frequent cleaning of your home, AC unit, furnace, and ventilation system.  

  1. Indoor Air Purifiers 

One of the best options to combat poor indoor air quality is an indoor air purifier. Studies have actually found that the use of portable indoor air purifiers actually reduce cancer risk from exposure to VOCs. 

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