Get started with air qual­ity mon­i­tors

In­door air qual­ity can af­fect your health, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and learn­ing – so take con­trol with th­ese new air mon­i­tors

Mac|Life - - NEWS - BY CLIFF JOSE PH

In­door air qual­ity can af­fect your health, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and learn­ing – so take con­trol with th­ese mon­i­tors.

There have been plenty of head­lines about air pol­lu­tion in re­cent months – in­clud­ing the news that the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has pro­posed de­lay­ing a fed­eral air pol­lu­tion rule for two years. Air qual­ity isn’t just the re­spon­si­bil­ity of gov­ern­ments, though, es­pe­cially when it comes to in­door air qual­ity, which now has its own acro­nym: IAQ. Af­ter all, most of us spend most of the day – and night – in­doors, so in­door air qual­ity can ob­vi­ously have a ma­jor ef­fect on our health.

That’s why a num­ber of com­pa­nies have de­vel­oped air qual­ity mon­i­tors that can de­tect and mea­sure a num­ber of dif­fer­ent pol­lu­tants and other fac­tors and, in ef­fect, tell us when to open a win­dow and get some fresh air. That might seem like sim­ple com­mon sense, but not all pol­lu­tion is easy to de­tect. Some fac­tors – such as hu­mid­ity – can be quite harm­less for many peo­ple, but

We’ re start­ing to see fans, air con­di­tion­ers, and more that work with Home Kit

have a real im­pact on others who suf­fer from al­ler­gies or med­i­cal con­di­tions such as asthma.

The sim­pler air qual­ity mon­i­tors tend to con­cen­trate on the level of car­bon diox­ide (CO2), which is of­ten used as a ball­park in­di­ca­tion of in­door air qual­ity. Ne­tatmo’s Healthy Home Coach is a good ex­am­ple, and has ac­tu­ally been avail­able for a few years. Priced at $100, the Home Coach fo­cuses on CO2 lev­els, as well as mon­i­tor­ing tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity. It can check sound lev­els too, al­though that doesn’t ex­actly seem es­sen­tial to us.

some­thing in the air

Like most air qual­ity mon­i­tors de­signed for home use, the Home Coach can sim­ply flash a few warn­ing lights to get your at­ten­tion when it thinks there’s a prob­lem, but it can also con­nect to your home Wi-Fi net­work to send you no­ti­fi­ca­tions and de­tailed info via its com­pan­ion app on your iPhone.

The next step up is a de­vice such as El­gato’s Eve Room, which is ac­tu­ally cheaper at $80, but also has the abil­ity to mon­i­tor VOC – volatile or­ganic com­pounds. That term cov­ers a wide va­ri­ety of air­borne chem­i­cals and pol­lu­tants, from – iron­i­cally enough – air fresh­en­ers, to burnt food, clean­ing ma­te­ri­als, or the emis­sions from an of­fice printer (a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to “sick build­ing syn­drome” in many large of­fice blocks).

How­ever, the Eve Room re­lies on Blue­tooth, rather than Wi-Fi, to con­nect to the Eve app, which helps to keep the price down but also means that you’ll prob­a­bly have to be in the same room in or­der for the two to con­nect. De­spite their rel­a­tively low prices, the

Eve Room and Ne­tatmo Healthy Home Coach both sup­port Ap­ple’s HomeKit soft­ware. This means that you can use Siri voice com­mands to get a quick air-qual­ity re­port, or even use them to con­trol other HomeKit de­vices, such as Ne­tatmo’s Star­ck­de­signed smart ther­mo­stat. If the mon­i­tor thinks it’s too warm then HomeKit – along with the Home app in iOS 10 – would al­low it to turn the heat­ing on or off. We’re also start­ing to see hu­mid­i­fiers, air con­di­tion­ers, and fans that work with HomeKit, mak­ing it easy to con­trol those, too.

Dust To Dust

Go­ing one step fur­ther, the best all-round in­door air qual­ity mon­i­tor that we’ve seen so far is the new Foobot (Model 21) from AirBox Labs. It’s a lit­tle pricey at $199, but the Foobot re­ally goes to town with sen­sors that al­low it to mon­i­tor both car­bon diox­ide and car­bon monox­ide, VOCs, tem­per­a­ture, and hu­mid­ity. Its out­stand­ing fea­ture, how­ever, is its abil­ity to de­tect “par­tic­u­late mat­ter” – fine par­ti­cles that can in­clude dust, aerosol sprays, smoke, and other pol­lu­tants. Th­ese par­ti­cles are small enough to pen­e­trate your lungs and cause a va­ri­ety of health prob­lems, or ex­ac­er­bate ex­ist­ing al­ler­gies and other con­di­tions.

The sheer amount of data recorded by the Foobot means that its iPhone app can some­times blitz you with statis­tics but, like most of its ri­vals, it has a sim­ple sys­tem of color-coded warn­ing lights that can flash to get your at­ten­tion.

An­other new op­tion that is very sim­i­lar to the Foobot is Awair, which also costs $199. We haven’t had a chance to take a close look at this yet, but it claims to mon­i­tor CO2, VOCs, tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity, dust, and par­tic­u­late mat­ter. It has a neat retro de­sign too, like an old wire­less radio. Fi­nally, there’s one clever jack-of-all-trades that is also worth men­tion­ing. The Withings Home cam­era is a pop­u­lar baby mon­i­tor, but also has the abil­ity to mon­i­tor VOC lev­els in a child’s bed­room. It costs $290, but the com­bi­na­tion of a baby-cam and air qual­ity mon­i­tor in one de­vice will appeal to many par­ents who want to keep a close eye on their child’s health.

The Foobot’s looks aren’t the most dis­creet, but it has a mod­est foot­print.

Awair is de­signed to blend in with your home.

El­gato’s Eve Room can mon­i­tor volatile or­ganic com­pounds.

Foobot is one of the few mon­i­tors to de­tect par­tic­u­late mat­ter, such as smoke.

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