Don’t take your home’s indoor air quality for granted. Research shows that 96 percent of households have to less a type of indoor air quality problem. An Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitor can help you stay on top by reporting levels of common pollutants and other air conditions inside your home in real time.
The culprit could be anything from excessive dust to high humidity and emissions from household cleaners or building materials. Without an IAQ monitor, these things can go unnoticed, even in the face of allergy-like symptoms or more dramatic health effects that can result from indoor pollutants.
Most IAQ monitors will alert you to unsafe levels via an indicator light and / or push notifications on your smartphone or tablet. Some indoor air quality monitors will also track outdoor air quality to provide context for your indoor readings. Measurements are generally displayed on a screen on the IAQ device, as well as in a companion app on your mobile device.
Once warned, you can take steps to reduce indoor pollutants, perhaps by opening some windows. Some monitors will even activate other smart gadgets, like an air purifier, fan, or dehumidifier, to help improve indoor air quality. Ultimately, a good IAQ monitor should provide enough clues for you to investigate and eliminate the source of your air quality problems.
Updated November 3, 2021 with our news story on Amazon’s new Smart Air Quality Monitor, which can monitor indoor air quality and alert you to unsafe indoor pollutant levels via the Alexa app or warnings voiced by Alexa herself. The $ 70 unit is scheduled to ship in December.
Below are our current top picks for indoor air quality monitors. We have also included a guide to the contaminants that a good IAQ monitor should track. And if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find links to all of our latest IAQ monitor reviews.
And don’t miss our great guide to air purifiers.
Best Indoor Air Quality Monitor
The Awair Element isn’t as pretty as the Awair 2nd Edition, which was wrapped in attractive hardwood, but this model is just as accurate in reporting carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and PM2.5 ( atmospheric). particulate matter less than 2.5 microns). And if you also own an Ecobee smart thermostat, you can activate that device to instruct your HVAC system to circulate indoor air to help improve indoor air quality.
Davis Instruments is well known for its excellent weather stations, and its AirLink air quality monitor exhibits the same precision and expert reporting. This device is unique among the monitors we have reviewed in that it can measure particles as small as 1 micron and can be deployed indoors or outdoors. But it does not measure other types of air pollution, such as carbon dioxide or VOCs.
Why two runners-up? Becauser, the Airthings Wave Plus is as unique as the Davis AirLink, but for a different reason – it’s the only device we’ve reviewed that can report radon inside your home. Radon is one of the most common and deadly indoor pollutants, and it cannot be detected unless you are actively looking for it. This monitor can also track carbon dioxide and VOC levels.
Main indoor pollutants
If our top options don’t fit your needs, this guide will help you understand the most common air pollutants, so you can find one that does. Most currently available IAQ monitors cannot monitor everybody of these, so choose the ones that interest you the most.
PM level: Particulate matter, or PM, is a mixture of particles and droplets in the air. PMs vary in shape and size, but those 10 micrometers in diameter or less can negatively affect your health because they can be inhaled. PM2.5 refers to fine particles, which are two and a half microns in diameter. PM1 is particulate matter measuring 1 micron.
Sufficient exposure to PM2.5 can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, causing allergy-like symptoms and shortness of breath in otherwise healthy people. It can also aggravate existing medical problems, such as asthma and heart disease. the World Health Organization considers PM2.5 to be the world’s greatest environmental health risk.
Indoor PM2.5 levels can be influenced by external sources such as vehicle exhaust, forest fires, and power plant emissions. But many indoor activities also produce PM2.5 – cooking, burning fireplaces, and smoking are just a few of the common sources.
VOC: The acronym stands for volatile organic compounds, gases emitted by a variety of materials that can have short- and long-term health effects. According to the Environmental protection agency, concentrations of many VOCs can be up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.
Sources of VOCs include many common household products, such as hairspray, cosmetics, cleaning fluids, disinfectants, paints, and varnishes. Burning fuels like wood and natural gas also produces VOCs.
Formaldehyde is one of the most common volatile organic compounds and can be found in many building materials, such as plywood, glues, and insulation. Formaldehyde is also used in some curtains and furniture fabrics. You can read more about formaldehyde and its sources in this article from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission..
Short-term exposure to low levels of VOCs can cause throat irritation, nausea, fatigue, and other minor discomfort. Long-term exposure to high concentrations of VOCs has been linked to more severe respiratory irritation, as well as liver and kidney damage. Products can emit VOCs even when stored, although to a lesser extent than when actively used.
Carbon monoxide: By now, most people are aware of the deadly effects of high concentrations of this colorless, odorless gas. But exposure to lower levels, sometimes emitted by fuel-burning appliances, can also cause adverse reactions, such as confusion and memory loss.
Some air quality monitors claim that they can detect these lower levels. However, the only reliable way to receive alerts about this notoriously difficult to identify killer is with a standard carbon monoxide detector.
Radon: Radon is a naturally occurring, colorless, odorless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking. according to EPA. As it is a by-product of the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, and water, it is ubiquitous both indoors and outdoors. Indoor radon levels generally need to be monitored with carbon-based equipment and require you to monitor them for up to 90 days. Then you need to send the kit to a lab for analysis and wait for the results.
An indoor air quality monitor with a radon sensor can provide faster results by monitoring levels in real time. Currently, Airthings Wave is the only monitor in our guide with this capability.
Carbon dioxide: While the effects of high CO2 levels were long thought to be benign, research has found that concentrations as low as 1,000 ppm can affect people’s cognitive function and decision-making performance.
The biggest source of CO2 indoors is people themselves, as it is a by-product of our respiratory function. Along with poor ventilation, this commonly leads to high CO2 levels in many homes. Fortunately, CO2 sensors can be found in most air quality monitors.
Temperature and humidity: These levels can affect more than your comfort. High temperatures and excessive humidity promote mold and mildew growth. These can cause structural damage to your home and cause allergy-like symptoms in people with sensitivities. Monitoring these levels can help prevent home and health problems and alert you to potential sources such as foundation cracks or leaks and poor insulation.
Air quality monitor checks