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
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.