Are Air Quality Monitors Worth It?
Air quality monitors have become fairly popular. You can easily find them for sale in stores and online. They provide a snapshot of sorts on the key air indexes in your home. They are usually designed to measure temperatures, the percentage of humidity, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and particle levels. Some will even monitor radon gas levels. The good news is, air quality monitors are generally fairly inexpensive – many of them cost less than $100. But are they really worth buying?
To answer that question, it’s important to understand how air quality monitors work. The devices monitor air quality by using different sensors, but often the sensors are cheaply made and inaccurate. It’s easy to make a sensor; it is costly to make a well-calibrated one. So, depending on the one you buy, your data can be questionable.
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What To Look For In An Air Quality Monitor
Air Quality Monitor Data
Another issue may be the data that is included. From an air purifier perspective, temperature and humidity aren’t too important since purifiers aren’t impacted by either one. And if radon is a concern, it is more important to have a separate device specifically to detect radon since it is so dangerous. VOCs and particles in the air are the two main data points to be concerned about when it comes to air purifiers. VOCs come from things like paint, paint strippers, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers, disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, stored fuel and automotive products, hobby supples and dry-cleaned clothes. Particles can be anything from dust to pet dander floating in the air.
VOC Sensors in Air Quality Monitors
The VOC sensor on an air quality monitor probably measures one VOC and assumes that all the other ones present are the same.
Not necessarily useful, since there are more than 600 VOCs that may be present at any given time. The biggest concern though may be how the particle counter is used. For the most part, all the base stations on air quality monitors measure particles at 2.5 or 10 microns in size. Quite frankly, these sizes are huge, and in the USA our overall good air quality makes these numbers exceedingly small and do not shed much valuable information to help you learn about how dirty air works.
Other AQM Considerations
If you’re in the market for an air quality monitor, you will want one that’s portable, has a true base station or one that is app-based. Since this is a fairly new device on the market, there aren’t any brand names with proven track records for quality or service. The market for these products has exploded thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and new products and brands are showing up daily. Our recommendations are as follows:
Our Recommended Air Quality Monitors
Awair Element Indoor $350
Offers in-depth feedback
Provides actionable recommendations on app
Attractive base station
Start-up issues for company
WiFi connectivity issues
Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor $89
Rechargeable and portable
Can be re-calibrated
Basic design and function
Autopilot Desktop CO2 Monitor & Data Logger $80
Solid reviews from existing customers
Measures carbon dioxide
Rechargeable base station
Very scientific form factor
Customer service complaints
About the Author: Mark Vander Berg
Mark Vander Berg is the Chief Product Expert at AirPurifiers.com. Mark has decades of experience in air purifier engineering. In addition to engineering and product design, he has also done extensive research and testing of many air purifiers and continues to do so for AirPurifiers.com.