5 Best Air Quality Monitors for the Home: Breathe Clean Air

awair element air quality monitor
Awair

Did you know that 9 in 10 homes suffer from at least one air quality issue, according to studies? While that seems like an astoundingly high number, it shouldn’t be surprising. From irritants like dust and pet dander to more harmful pollutants like radon and air pollution, you might be breathing in dirty air. An air quality monitor is a perfect way to help you breathe better, healthier air and test air quality, and most come with a free app for your mobile phone.

While most of our recommendations below are intended for indoor use only, outdoor air quality monitors can be equally useful for allergy sufferers. While options here aren’t as numerous, we could find a few options that we think are worthy of consideration.

PM stands for particulate matter, with the number the size measured in microns. Many air quality monitors detect particulate matter in two sizes, PM2.5 and PM10 (these fine particles can be as small as the diameter of a human hair!). Better air quality monitors can also measure PM1 and other pollutants such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds, commonly found in household cleaners and cleaning chemicals), CO2, carbon monoxide, and even radon.

While they may not be able to detect mold directly, some air quality monitors can alert you to conditions that might make mold growth more likely.

Who should purchase an air quality monitor?

Purchase an air quality monitor if you or a loved one in the home has allergies, asthma, or other respiratory problems. These devices will help them feel better by letting them know when indoor air quality is poor so they can take action to improve air quality. Also, homeowners that are concerned about their indoor air quality and common household pollutants should invest in one of these devices as well.

Can I get sick from poor air quality in my home?

Yes. Regardless of your health status, bad indoor air quality can make you sick. Acute exposure to high concentrations of particulate matter can cause difficulty breathing, throat and eye irritation, and chest pain. Prolonged exposure to bad air quality can cause the following symptoms:

  • Lung damage
  • Dry throat
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased fatigue

Even if you are healthy and at a lower risk for contracting a respiratory illness, bad air quality can make you sick after prolonged exposure. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) poses the greatest risk for potential health problems since these particles can enter the lungs and possibly the bloodstream. A good indoor air quality monitor is a worthwhile investment regardless of your health status.

We recently wrote a blog post on who should buy an air quality monitor, which if you are in one of the high risk groups above, you should definitely read.

Our Air Quality Monitor Picks at a Glance

These are our current top picks in air quality monitors. We update this list regularly based on new testing information. Have a question? Feel free to contact us.

Price current as of October 7, 2021

The Best Indoor Air Quality Monitors

awair element indoor air quality monitor
Awair

If you’re more concerned with the air quality inside your home, an indoor air quality monitor is the perfect solution. Most air quality monitors sample the air for a variety of different pollutants, with some monitors offering tips on how to lower levels of airborne pollutants that may pose a risk to your health.

Best Overall – Awair Element

The Awair Element is a beautiful desktop unit that is chock full of features. Multiple sensors track temperature, indoor humidity, carbon dioxide levels, VOCs, and PM2.5 particulate matter within the home, with information displayed on the Awair Element’s front face. Using the companion app, you’ll be able to view historical data and insights, along with tips to improve the air quality in your home.

If you have either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you’ll also be able to ask your virtual assistant for a readout of the current air quality readings as well. IFTTT compatibility allows you to connect your Awair to other smart home devices — like a smart air purifier — to make sure your air is as clean as can be.

  • KNOW YOUR AIR - Track temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2), chemicals (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM2. 5) in your space
  • GAIN ACTIONABLE INSIGHT - Receive real-time insight into your indoor air quality and track changes over time in the Awair Home app
  • TRANSFORM YOUR ENVIRONMENT - Browse in-app feedback and tips to improve the health of your space
  • SMART ASSISTANT INTEGRATIONS - Seamlessly integrate Element with Alexa or Google Assistant
  • WI-FI CONNECTED DEVICE - Awair Element requires Bluetooth (for setup) and a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Connection.
  • FREE AWAIR HOME APP - App works on smartphones or tablets with the latest versions of iOS or Android

Price current as of October 7, 2021

Runner-up – AirThings Wave Plus

The AirThings Wave Plus would have likely been our top choice in indoor air quality monitors if it included particulate matter readings. It doesn’t, but it does detect radon, something no other recommendation on our list can do. In addition to radon, the AirThings Wave Plus measures carbon dioxide and VOC levels and temperature, humidity, and air pressure. Like the Awair Element, the AirThings app allows you to track historical data, with pollen data from official sources near your location, too. It also supports IFTTT as well.

  • AWARD-WINNING: Wave Plus is an award-winning smart indoor air quality monitor with radon detection. (Time magazine's Best Inventions 2019; CES Innovation Award - Honouree 2019)
  • RELIABLE RADON RESULTS: As radon levels fluctuate daily, continuous long-term measuring is necessary. Airthings Wave Plus measures radon accurately and reliably
  • CLEAN AIR SENSORS: Radon, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), toxins and chemicals (Total VOCs), humidity, temperature and air pressure sensors allow you to gain full visibility into six key indoor air factors
  • EASY AND CLEAR RESULTS: Connect via Bluetooth to the Airthings App or log in to the Airthings Dashboard online for detailed insights into your air
  • POLLEN LEVELS : Live and local pollen data right in your Airthings App
  • EASY: Simply wave in front of the device to receive a color-coded visual indication of the overall air quality: Green (Good), Yellow (Fair), Red (Poor)
  • SMART HOME INTEGRATION: Airthings Wave Plus works seamlessly with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT (if this then that)

Price current as of October 7, 2021

Best Portable Option – Huma-i HI-150

Huma-i gets on our list for its innovative design with the HI-150, which is portable and usable both indoors and out. While it doesn’t have a companion app, all its measurements, including PM2.5 and PM10 particulate matter, carbon dioxide and VOC levels, and temperature readings, are displayed on the screen, either for current readings or a graph of historical readings. The HI-150 can fit in your pocket and has an internal built-in battery.

  • REAL-TIME AIR QUALITY MEASURE - Monitor air quality with the touch of a button, measuring levels of CO2, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), and Particle Matter ((PM2.5 & PM10). Also measure temperature and humidity in your surroundings.
  • PORTABILITY - With pocket-sized portability, take the Huma-i with you at all times to measure the quality of air around you. Great for both indoor and outdoor environments.
  • ADVANCED FAN & SENSORS – The Huma-i has a built-in fan to quickly draw in ambient air to allow real-time measurements
  • EASY OF USE - Easily read real time air quality results in graph mode or Icon mode through the OLED display by toggling a one touch button. And easily view the Status LED lights that lets you quickly know the status of CO2, VOC, and particle matter.
  • DURABLE & STYLISH - Sturdy and designed focused outer casing looks great while protecting your Huma-i device. Have peace of mind when carrying your Huma-i device during your activities.

Price current as of October 7, 2021

The Best Outdoor Air Quality Monitors

davis airlink outdoor air quality monitor
Davis Instruments

Allergy sufferers and those with breathing difficulties might find an outdoor air quality monitor useful. These devices measure common outdoor pollutants, and in some cases, your data is shared publicly (with your consent) to help others around you determine air quality. Some outdoor air quality monitors can also be used indoors; however, we recommend you purchase an air quality monitor intended for indoor use. They typically measure pollutants found in the home that aren’t typically found outdoors.

Best Overall – Davis Instruments AirLink

Davis’ AirLink air quality monitor doesn’t measure carbon dioxide or VOCs but is one of the few monitors out there to detect PM1 particulate matter. PM1 is especially dangerous as it is small enough to penetrate the bloodstream even further and is difficult to disperse. While the AirLink can be used inside, we recommend one of our internal air quality monitors instead because they’re able to measure much more than just particulate matter. Do keep in mind that you need a WeatherLink Live access point to use the AirLink, which comes with either the Vantage Vue or Vantage Pro2 weather station.

  • Global Air Quality Indices: Choose from a growing list including US, Canada, Mexico, China, EU, UK, Australia, India, and South Korea.
  • Real Time Readings: See updates on your phone and computer every minute.
  • Wi-Fi Connected: Easily connect AirLink to your Wi-Fi network to send data to the Davis Cloud.
  • Accurate: Measures particulates as small as 0.3 micrometers with an accuracy of +/-10 micrograms per cubic meter in concentrations.
  • Pair with a weather station: Use multiple AirLinks as stand-alone sensors or easily merge with your Davis weather station.

Price current as of October 6, 2021

Best Low-Cost Option – Ecowitt WH0290

Ecowitt is the company behind the manufacture of Ambient Weather stations (outside the US, Ambient’s stations are manufactured and sold by Ecowitt). However, some of Ecowitt’s products are available on Amazon, where Ambient Weather doesn’t rebrand the product for US sale. The WH0290 PM2.5 air quality monitor is one of those devices. It only can detect PM2.5 pollutants, which is a big downside, but if you’re in a pinch budget-wise — it’s one of the cheapest and most reliable options.

  • Know Your Air: this air quality monitor provids accurate PM2.5 information(with high quality Honeywell HPM Series Particle Sensor) in your home/office and allows you to take timely measures to keep the air quality within safe levels
  • 3-in-1 Multifunctional Tester: displays PM2.5/AQI current and max value for 1h/24h/since last reset; also measuring the indoor temperature(°C/°F switchable) and relative humidity; Note: No outdoor temperature and humidity; will not detect mold
  • 6 Grades Air Quality Levels Indicator: Good, Moderate, Poor, Unhealthy, Severe and Hazardous, showing you instantly what your air quality is like
  • Indoor & Outdoor Air Quality Detector: suitable to use at home, office, car and other environmental testing; monitor the air quality anytime anywhere to be away from harmful of PM2.5
  • Rechargeable & Wireless: the PM2.5 sensor is powered by 2 rechargeable batteries and with built in solar panel as backup power(all included); also with battery power condition indicator. Note: Please full recharge the PM2.5 sensor before use.

Price current as of October 7, 2021

Common Pollutants 101

Confused by some of the terms we used above? We’ve created this easy-to-follow guide below to help you understand what the various common pollutants are and how they might pose a risk to your overall health. For more information on pollutants, we suggest checking out the EPA’s website.

Particulate Matter (PM)

Particulate matter, or PM for short, is a mix of particles and droplets in the air. PM can come in various shapes and sizes, but anything less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) is hazardous to your health as it can be inhaled. PM2.5 (2.5 microns in size) and PM1 are also commonly measured particulate matter sizes.

Extended exposure to particulate matter, especially PM1 and PM2.5, can cause issues with the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms of exposure are shortness of breath and allergy-like symptoms. If you have existing medical conditions like asthma and heart disease, you should be especially mindful of PM levels in the air.

Common outdoor sources of PM include vehicle exhaust, wildfires, and power plant emissions. Indoor sources such as cooking, burning fireplaces, and smoking can also produce PM as well.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs can have both short and long-term health effects. While VOCs may be present indoors, concentrations can be as much as 10 times higher indoors, the EPA says. Common household products like hairspray, cosmetics, cleaning fluids, disinfectants, paints, and varnishes produce VOCs, such as burning wood and natural gas.

Formaldehyde is a common VOC and is found in many places in the home: many building materials, including plywood, glues, and insulation contain it, as well as drapes and furniture fabrics.

Short-term exposure to VOCs causes minor symptoms like throat irritation, nausea, and fatigue. Longer-term exposure can cause more severe respiratory issues and can damage the liver and kidneys. Typically VOCs are emitted in larger quantities when in use. However, products may emit smaller amounts of VOCs.

Carbon Monoxide

This odorless and invisible gas is already well known as a hazardous pollutant. At higher concentrations, it can cause loss of consciousness and even death — and many times, its victims don’t know they’re being poisoned. Even at lower levels, issues including confusion and memory loss can occur.

We strongly recommend that you do not depend on any air quality monitor to detect carbon monoxide. The best way to detect carbon monoxide is a carbon monoxide detector. Many higher-end smoke detectors offer this functionality.

Radon

The leading cause of cancer behind smoking in the United States, radon is a naturally occurring invisible colorless gas. It is the byproduct of the naturally occurring breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, and water and can be found indoors and outdoors. Previously, a kit must be purchased to test for this, which takes about three months and must be shipped off to a lab.

The AirThings Wave Plus is currently the only air quality monitor that can test for radon in real-time.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

While not as hazardous as some of the other indoor pollutants, even at fairly high levels, concentrations of 1,000ppm or more can cause a decline in cognitive and decision-making performance in humans. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of humans breathing, so in poor ventilation, these levels can easily get to levels of 1,000ppm or more in the home. Most indoor air quality sensors can measure CO2 levels in the air.

Temperature and Humidity

While not necessarily a pollutant, high temperatures, and humidity can cause mold and mildew growth, and some humans are sensitive to mold and mildew in the air, causing allergy-like symptoms.

Why You Should Buy an Air Quality Monitor

While not necessarily thought of like a weather instrument per se, weather can promote poor air quality. Think of a hot day with no wind. Air becomes stagnant, and pollution builds. We find air quality monitors extremely useful here at our setup — especially since we have several people in our household with medical issues that can be exacerbated by poor air quality.

If you have medical issues like this or are even just curious what the air quality is like in your home and outdoors, by all means, consider an air quality monitor. We’ve been thrilled with our Davis AirLink and use it to ensure we’re breathing clean, pollutant-free air whenever possible.

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