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Indoor air quality monitors: Which are the best and why

Indoor air quality monitor
Appliances ELECTRONICS HEALTH & BEAUTY

Why do we need indoor air quality monitors?

Allow me to illustrate using an anecdote.

Sometime last year, my sister-in-law was nursing a newborn baby. However, the baby just couldn’t stop crying at night. My sister-in-law tried all remedies. She visited several doctors but they couldn’t find anything wrong with the baby. As far as they were concerned, the baby was a picture of health.

Now at the same time, luckily, sis-in-law and her husband bought the ibaby baby monitor with the integrated air quality monitor. This led them to discover that the baby’s room had elevated levels of carbon dioxide. This was giving the baby headaches and that’s why he would cry all night. They were able to remedy this by airing the room better. All that thanks to a coincidental purchase.

So why would you need an air quality monitor? The simple answer is to protect you and your family from poor air quality.

Your indoor air may be 5 times more polluted than outside!

Some studies claim even higher, depending on your location. You could be breathing in terrible air and not even know it.

Poor air quality has been linked to several serious ailments. The World Health Organization estimates that polluted air is the main cause of 7 million premature deaths annually. These diseases include heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Other studies show that poor air quality leads to learning disorders and mental illness in children.

It’s becoming more obvious that these pollution statistics are really a matter of life or death.

The good news is that there is a growing awareness of the importance of cleaner indoor air. This is thanks to advice such as the one found in this video.

As a result of this growing awareness, air purifiers are now becoming more and more popular. These gadget are in fact seen as a necessity in some more polluted cities.

It has also led to the popularity of air purifiers and their less ‘sexy’ cousins, the air quality monitors. These are gadgets designed with various sensors to monitor the contents of the air in a given place.

The elements which air quality monitors are usually able to measure include:

  • particular matter content (animal dander, dust, pollen etc),
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs include chemicals like formaldehyde)
  • Carbon dioxide content
  • temperature
  • humidity

How we rated the indoor air quality monitors we chose

We shall only be looking at indoor air quality monitors which have the minimum ability too monitor PM 2.5 and below, CO2 as well as VOC. What we shall not be reviewing is single item monitor like dedicated carbon dioxide monitors or smoke alarms. We also omitted air purifiers with integrated air quality monitors. Those shall be reviewed in an upcoming air purifiers article.

Comparison

Here’s a quick price comparison of the air quality monitors we have reviewed

(DISCLAIMER: Prices shown were current at publishing time. Follow the links to check the latest prices)

 

Best indoor air quality monitors 2017

Awair air quality monitor (Tipper recommended)

The Awair by Bitfinder is one of the better known names of indoor air quality monitors. This is because they were among the first to market with a consumer air quality monitor. It’s a very capable monitor with a good reliability record.

Awair-air-quality-monitor

The Awair by Bitfind

The Awair comes with a VOC sensor, PM 2.5/1.0 sensors, CO2 sensor, hygrometer and thermometer. It is also a smart device that connects to Google’s Nest, Amazon’s Alexa and other IFTTT devices. In addition, it’s also controllable via mobile using both Android and iOS devices.

The included mobile app provides numerous actionable insight and personalized tips based on the data about your home’s air. This makes it perfect for buyers who are new to air quality monitoring. You can learn all about each data point and how you can improve the air quality in your home.

The device’s connectivity enables it to control other smart air quality devices in your home to suit the prevailing conditions. For example, it can turn on an air purifier in response to high VOC readings. Of course, you can customize this to your own liking.

The center of your interaction with the Awair shall be the accompanying mobile app. This shows all the realtime air statistics of your home. This is in addition to the insights and tips I mentioned earlier. The LED display on the device itself employ a code system to indicate current air quality levels. It’s a simple system using red and green codes and you will quickly learn to tell good air quality from bad.

You have the ability to connect several Awairs to the mobile app. They can be placed in the same home or one at the office or the other at home. This makes it possible to place several Awairs in different rooms of your home to ensure consistent monitoring of your entire house.

The unit is very sensitive to changes. Even seemingly innocuous actions like making the bed or just entering the room show changes in PM 2.5 and CO2 levels respectively. You will soon notice so much about the air around your home with the Awair.

The solid reliability of the Awair over time edges it for us as a big player in the air quality monitor game. Given the many reliability issues other units face, this is  major positive. Its monitoring abilities are also very good for a consumer device. This is a perfect device for someone that needs a smart air quality monitor that just does the job like it’s supposed to. If you need a device that works without connection to WiFi however, this isn’t the device for you.

PROS

  • Very accurate measurements
  • Gives detailed data on the quality of your air

CONS

  • Requires constant connection to WiFi to operate
  • Humidity readings not the most accurate

Dylos DC-1100-PRO-PC indoor air quality monitor

The Dylos DC-1100-PRO-PC is the most accurate of the indoor air quality monitors we have reviewed so far. For example, it has the ability to monitor particulate matter as small as 0.5 micron thick.

Dylos-DC-1100-Pro-PC

A Dylos DC 1100 indoor air quality monitor

This unit is equipped with only two sensors. One sensor monitors small particulate matter (PM2.5) and another monitors fine particles (PM0.5). There are no thermometers, hygrometers or VOC sensors for this unit. Dylos traded versatility for accuracy and it paid dividends in that respect.

The Dylos is designed very simply and has a slightly industrial look. It had a simple LCD readout at the front to display the 2 data points it monitors. The readout on the left shows the fine particle count. These are the particles that irritate the lungs and aggravate allergies. The read out on the left shows the number of larger particles.

The simplicity of the PRO-PC extends to how you read and interpret its data. Dylos uses a scale from zero to 3500. Zero shows excellent conditions and 3500 is terrible. Units from Dylos are however not designed with connectivity in mind. The unit can only show the data. Whatever happens after depends on you. It’s therefore not suited to be at the center of a smart home beyond being a tool for information.

The accuracy of the DC-1100 alone makes us rank it second on our list of best indoor air quality monitors despite it’s glaring weaknesses in comparison to other monitors.

This unit is perfect for people who suffer from allergies. The accurate particle counting will warn you when allergy aggravating conditions arise and you can set your air purifier or HVAC accordingly. Unfortunately, the DC-1100 isn’t a smart device that can connect to your other devices and handle this automatically. You must therefore constantly monitor the data and make adjustments yourself.

PROS

  • Extremely accurate. Nearly as good as pro units
  • Can be connected to a PC for data download
  • Can be placed on window to tell outdoor conditions

CONS

  • Limited connectivity options. No mobile apps makes calibration slightly complex
  • More expensive than most units on our list
  • Only has sensors to detect fine particulate matter. No VOC sensor, hygrometer or thermometer.

 

Air Mentor PRO A 6-in-1 indoor air quality monitor

The Air Mentor Pro A is an example of a big thing coming in a small package. This device comes in a compact unit but it packs a punch in whatever it can do.

Air Mentor Pro 6-in-1 air quality monitor

Air Mentor Pro 6-in-1 air quality monitor

This air quality monitor comes with a can detect concentrations of CO2, VOC along with CO, PM2.5 and PM10, temperature and relative humidity. It has an LED bevel designed to change color to indicate air quality levels. This simple design makes it very easy to understand and use.

The Air Mentor has a companion Air Mentor mobile app to control the unit. This app is available for Android and iOS devices. Here, you will find all the expanded readings of the air conditions including historical data. This is stored in the cloud so that you can always retrieve it later even from another mobile device. The unit connects to the mobile device via Bluetooth. It does not have WiFi.

It is clear that the makers of this air quality monitor decided to focus on ease of use. Starting from the LED indicator that changes color requiring very little interpretation, to connection to the app which takes only 2 steps. One only needs to glance at the monitor to know whether air quality is good or bad. The mobile app is tasked with the details explaining why.

The Air Mentor isn’t super accurate. Neither does it claim to be. It however gives you a good idea of the state of your air. The inbuilt battery means that you can move around with it and have a general sense of the air quality of the places you visit. Since it doesn’t use the power hungry WiFi, the charge lasts a couple of days.

This is a great monitor no doubt about it. However, it goes without say that it’s not right for everyone. It’s good for those who are happy enough with ballpark level accuracy and no need for WiFi. Basically if you just need a general idea of what air conditions are like. It is not a good buy for anyone that needs WiFi connectivity or connections with smart devices around the house.

PROS

  • One of few monitors that detects Carbon Monoxide levels
  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Portable

CONS

  • Requires use of a mobile device for all information display

 

AirVisual Node

A relatively new entrant to the air quality monitor game is the AirVisual Node. The result of a crowdfunded campaign, this newcomer has waded into the air quality monitor game and made its presence felt.

airvisual-node

The AirVisual Node

The Node boasts a high precision laser particle sensor, a CO2 sensor, a hygrometer and a thermometer. The company claims to be accurate to medical standards. This is good news for buyers looking to buy a monitor for medical reasons.

The Node also features connectivity to WiFi as well as mobile control by Android and iOS devices. It also has a huge internal memory for storage if historical graphs in case you may want to look these up later for trends.

The Node’s 5″ screen displays all the info you need in bright colors. This includes both indoor and outdoor air conditions, weather forecasts and personalized advice. The device doesn’t require WiFi access to operate. It works just fine without displaying the outdoor conditions and forecasts.

This unit does not include a VOC sensor. Therefore if your concern is VOCs, it would be best to skip on it. It does however have highly accurate CO2 and particle (PM2.5) sensors. Thus if your concern is things like pollen, this unit would be perfect for you.

Lastly, it is not a ‘smart’ device. Despite the good connectivity options, the unit lacks the ability to interface with other appliances. Therefore, it cannot, for example, control the HVAC in response to temperature changes. This is something to keep in mind in case you are looking for a device to run a smart home.

The AirVisual Node is a solid contender but the lack of some features holds it back. We consider VOC sensors as vital for a good air quality monitor and unlike the Dylos, the Node’s other features just aren’t strong enough to impress. It is, however, still a good monitor and will do a good enough job when called upon. The outdoor conditions readings option will do good especially in cities with a huge pollution problem.

PROS

  • Excellent connectivity options
  • Nice big screen means you don’t have to rely on your phone to read data

CONS

  • Being a late entrant into the game means that they are now at the stage of dealing with early bugs

 

Foobot Good Air Guru

I love the Foobot. When it works. When it has one of its breakdowns, not so much. The Foobot is so frustrating because on paper it should be the best monitor on our list. It comes closest to the ideals we’re looking for in an air quality monitor. So why isn’t it the best on our list? It all boils down to one thing. Reliability.

Foobot-good-air-guru

A Foobot Good Air Guru lights up in blue to show good air quality

This monitor contains sensors for VOCs, PM2.5, humidity and temperature. It also shows carbon dioxide readings calculated using an algorithm based on VOC readings. I wouldn’t trust this though and if CO2 is important for you, you can augment with a separate carbon dioxide monitor.

It’s comes with an mobile app (available for iOS and Android) used to configure the unit and also view real-time data about your home air in the form of graphs. You also receive alerts for pollution-level events.

One of my favorite features is that it works with Nest, Ecobee, Amazon Echo, IFTTT and more. Since it’s a smart device, it can be configured to connect to your other smart devices around the house. This can be anything from the obvious smart thermostat and HVAC to programming a time to turn off smart light bulbs.

You can add another Foobot to your account so you can control several devices across several rooms and enable them to work in tandem.

It is designed as a monitor of air quality over time so you can notice sudden spikes in pollutants. As such it wouldn’t be the best tool to use for spot readings. You may need a separate monitor for more accurate on-the-spot readings. As a monitor for overall air quality over time it is second to none.

It’s no secret that the Foobot is loaded with great features. However, it’s also famous for less than excellent reliability. To be fair, this was to be expected since this is a first generation device and their first ever product. Unfortunately, the problems are worsened by customer support issues. A quick look at the device’s Amazon reviews shows that 25% are negative. Most of them complain of terrible service. I don’t know about you but I feel that a 1-in-4 chance of having issues with your new not-so-cheap air monitor is cause for concern.

We want to love the Foobot but they have to step up on the support side. Their device is awesome for sure. Who should buy it? Brave souls who need a connected air monitor. If however you do not need smart connections or a game of Russian roulette with customer care, you should look elsewhere.

PROS

  • A wide range of connectivity options means it can be the brain of your smart air quality system
  • Easy to use mobile app
  • Wide array of sensors covering most air monitoring needs

CONS

  • The software is still undergoing tweaking so it may affect the device’s calibration
  • After sales service needs to improve

 

 

 

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