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Air quality has always been an important factor in the home, especially for those with breathing challenges or allergies. Innovations in smart-home technology have made it easier than ever to get an accurate assessment of your home’s air quality — and take steps to improve it. But where should you place air quality monitors, and what can they really do? Let’s dive into the information you need to make informed choices.
What Are Air Quality Sensors?
Air quality sensors are devices that measure the air in your home and detect the presence or absence of various particles or gasses. They also provide you with up-to-the-minute readings, and many can track those readings over time and provide graphs and historical levels.
Most sensors sit on a table or desk; some can be mounted to a wall and powered by a wall plug or rechargeable via USB. We will be sticking to air quality sensors made for homes (not industrial-level sensors) in this article.
What Can Air Quality Sensors Detect?
Air quality sensors made for the home are capable of detecting and reporting things like:
- Humidity level
- Carbon dioxide(CO2)
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
- Particulate matter (PM2.5)
- Total volatile organic compounds (TVOC)
- Ambient noise levels
Some of these compounds, like carbon monoxide, can be extremely dangerous and harm health, while others, like VOC and PM2.5, can be irritants in the short term and potentially create health risks in the long term.
Do Air Quality Sensors Work with my Smartphone?
Most of the better-known air quality sensors on the market have a smartphone app you can download. The apps will walk you through your air quality sensor setup and provide current air quality data. Most will also store values and show you the changes in the air quality throughout the day.
Like AWAIR’s Home App, some will also show you the current air quality for nearby neighborhoods, both indoors and out. Based on the readings, some will give you tips and ideas about what people around you are experiencing, plus how to fix it.
Where To Place an Air Quality Sensor in Your Home
Deciding where to place your air quality sensor around your home can be challenging, but rest assured that since the sensors are movable, you can try out different locations or even have a pre-determined schedule to monitor multiple areas.
Some sensors are small enough and inexpensive enough that you may want to consider purchasing three or four to monitor different rooms.
Let’s look at some of the best places to place an air quality sensor around your home, as well as some options that might be best for those areas.
Garages are one of the most common places around the home to find VOCs and carbon monoxide. If you have an attached garage, the presence of carbon monoxide is a big concern, since it can seep into the home (via an idling car, for example) and even result in deadly consequences. In climates where extreme hot or cold temperatures are present, it’s also good to track how your garage handles these temperatures, as items stored in the garage may be damaged by freezing or extreme heat.
AWAIR’s Element sensor is great for tracking VOCs, and Amazon’s Smart Air Quality Monitor tracks both VOCs and carbon monoxide. You can also set up routines for the Amazon sensor to turn on a fan or warn you when certain levels are reached.
Like the garage, VOCs are more likely to be found in the basement if you’re storing things like paint or glue. Carbon monoxide may be an issue if your furnace is in the basement, and radon is a concern in any indoor room, but particularly those on lower levels where the majority of the space is below ground.
Amazon’s Smart Air Quality Monitor handles VOCs and carbon monoxide but won’t measure radon levels. For radon, consider the Airthings House Kit.
You want your bedroom to be cozy and just the right temperature. Humidity might be more of an issue as well. Carbon monoxide is always a concern.
To get your temperature and humidity right, any major air quality sensors will do the job, but consider AWAIR’s Element sensor for the carbon dioxide sensor or the Eve Room Air Quality Monitor.
Humidity is a top issue in bathrooms, as is possible mold growth and the two go hand-in-hand. For humidity tracking and sensing the potential for mold, the Airthings House Kit is a good bet, and it also tracks radon and VOCs.
Temperature is the primary concern (as is a notification if the temperature gets too high, say from leaving a burner or the stove on) however humidity and mold may also be problematic.
Airthings’ House Kit will tackle temp, humidity and mold readings. AWAIR’s Element will also be a good choice for the kitchen with PM2.5 and VOC sensors.
Carbon monoxide will be your biggest concern in the utility room, though not the only one. Radon and carbon dioxide are also worth keeping an eye on, and a humidity detector might notice a water leak sooner than you do.
Amazon’s Smart Air Quality Monitor can detect carbon monoxide, but they warn that it shouldn’t be substituted for an actual carbon monoxide alarm. The Airthings House Kit detects radon, making it a solid option for the utility room as well.
New Furniture or Carpeting
Off-gassing is a big concern for larger furniture items and carpeting. Off-gassing equals VOC and potentially PM2.5. Amazon’s Smart Air Quality Monitor and AWAIR’s Element both detect PM2.5 and VOC, which should help put fears of off-gassing to rest.
Outdoors and Greenhouse
Outdoors, you’ll have some different concerns, like barometric pressure and if you live in an area where wildfire smoke blows in, you might also want to know when air quality drops, particularly for those with breathing difficulties. If you’re a gardener with a greenhouse, temperature and humidity monitoring can be the difference between an average growing season and a great one.
How to keep tabs on all this? Netatmo’s Smart Home Weather Station can measure and report barometric pressure, air quality, temperature and humidity and weather changes.
Depending on your specific needs, you’ll want to find an air quality sensor that can handle specific monitoring. Take some time to consider what’s essential for you, and when you’ve decided, look at the various air quality sensors to see which can handle more of what you need.