Fresh Air: Best Air Quality Monitors of 2022


Support us! Explorersweb may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn more.

No matter where you live, you’re not immune to air pollution. The best air quality monitors can help you stay one step ahead of common household, and even outdoor, air pollutants like volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and radon.

Choosing the right indoor air quality monitor can be difficult. A universe of options exists, across a wide range of pollutants measured, displays, features, and connectivity. Get a clear view with our product round-up.

Please read: Useful abbreviations and definitions

Air Quality Index (AQI): A measurement of air pollution on a scale of 0-500.

Carbon Monoxide (CO): Odorless, colorless gas that can be lethal.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): The byproduct of human respiration; used by plants to produce oxygen.

Formaldehyde (HCHO): Strong-smelling gas present in some synthetic materials like particleboard, glues, permanent press fabrics, and insulative materials.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): Abbreviated for convenience.

Particulate Matter (PM1.0, PM2.5, PM10): Various particles measured in micrometer increments. Includes molds, particles in wildfire smoke, and more. Considered the most dangerous air pollutants.

Radon (Rn): Gas released from the natural decay of uranium. Radon is radioactive, found in soil, water, and natural gas, and common in houses.

Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC or VOC): Chemicals that leech from paints, wax coatings, cosmetics, cleaning products, etc. Common indoors.

Best all-around (non-app based): MUTOCAR Air Quality Monitor

hyvqdnm air quality monitor

 

  • Quick, straightforward display
  • USB-rechargeable
  • Weight:10.55 Ounces
  • Display: LCD
  • App-connected: No
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): No
  • Pollutants measured: 6
  • AQI displayed: No
  • Battery Life: 8-12 hours

Pros

  • Simple
  • Quick readings

Cons

  • Unsophisticated data
  • Does not store AQ history

MUTOCAR’s home air quality monitor is simple and easy to read. It measures six common household air pollutants and collates information into a “mean value” on its blue-and-white LCD screen. It’s easy to move around your house as needed. Its size is right between a phone you’d call a brick and an actual brick, and its USB-rechargeable battery lasts about a day. It fulfilled my expectations on testing: I could check it quickly as I walked by, I didn’t have to worry about an associated app, and it indicated pollution when I put it in obviously polluted environments.

The device measures CO, CO2, HCHO, TVOC, PM10, and PM2.5. It does not measure radon, another common indoor air pollutant that’s considered important. The monitor displays information for each pollutant on its screen, refreshing every second or so. It calculates a “mean value” and indicates pollution level on a four-tier visual scale ranging from green to red. An included booklet advises users on toxicity levels and proper use (often in amusing broken English).

I took this home air quality monitor out of the box, pushed the power button, and it got right to work. At first, it read nearly off-the-scale CO2 pollution on my desk. Referring to the manual, I saw the monitor requires a several-hour calibration period. Sure enough, by that evening the noxious gas reading had leveled off and my desktop air quality was “green.”

The unit gave me no surprises for a few days, so I decided to put it to the test. I have one of those toilets that has its own room, which is also (unfortunately) the only good place for my cat’s litter box. (Please don’t judge). I put it inside and closed the door. Sure enough, an hour later it showed elevated readings in many categories and a red indicator.

Though I found the kickstand flimsy, this air quality monitor functioned uneventfully and met my utilitarian expectations at MSRP $65. Read the in-depth review here.

See the MUTOCAR Portable Air Quality Monitor on Walmart
 

Best all-around (app-connected): Airthings Wave Plus Air Quality Monitor

airthings wave plus air quality monitor

  • Radon detection
  • Easy to read with “glow ring” feature
  • App connected, smart
  • Smoke detector appearance
  • Weight: 7.83 ounces
  • Display: Glow ring
  • App-connected: Yes
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): Yes
  • Pollutants measured: 3
  • AQI displayed: No
  • Battery Life: +/- 1.5 years

Pros

  • Unobtrusive size/shape
  • Useful app
  • Measures radon

Cons

  • Glow ring feature can be unhelpful
  • Expensive

The Airthings Wave Plus delivers real-time and historical app-based IAQ data. The smart home device reads six IAQ metrics including radon levels. For a quick analysis, users can simply pass their hand in front of the smoke-detector-like puck to activate the “glow ring,” which gives an instant green/yellow/red IAQ reading. I tested the Wave Plus and found it delivered on its basic functions. However, the glow ring function proved useless to me and the device took a long time to calibrate.

The Airthings Wave Plus measures indoor air for Rn, TVOC, CO2, humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure. Radon (Rn) is, decisively, the centerpiece of the suite. Radon is the gas released by the natural decay of uranium — so, it’s radioactive. Furthermore, every home is generally considered to have some concentration of it, because it’s in soil, water, and natural gas. At high levels, it’s dangerous.

Happily, my apartment in the Las Vegas valley clocked low radon levels, according to Wave Plus. In fact, it measured each pollutant it measured at consistently low to moderate levels, which I nonchalantly tracked with the app.

Unfortunately, my testing time was limited by the monitor’s long calibration period — seven days. That, plus heavily delayed shipping, meant I only had a few days to test the monitor at full capacity as of this writing. During calibration, the monitor still reads data and interacts with the app. But I still hadn’t unlocked secondary app features like the free radon report.

My only real gripe with the Airthings Wave Plus was that the glow ring indicator, in my specific case, meant absolutely nothing. Every time I waved my hand in front of it, it lit up red. Why? Because, here in the desert, my air falls into the “unhealthy” range for humidity. I know the air’s dry, and I don’t care. Even if I did, is dry air actually unhealthy? At some level, it’s pretty intuitive: you’re in the desert, drink more water.

The Airthings Wave Plus seems like a good purchase for anyone interested in closely monitoring radon levels, who values a smart device with good app connectivity. For those more interested in keeping casual tabs on their IAQ for personal reference, it might be overkill, especially at $200 MSRP. Read the in-depth review here.

See the Airthings Wave Plus Air Quality Monitor on Amazon

See the Airthings Wave Plus Air Quality Monitor on Walmart

 

Cheapest: Four Uncles Air Quality Monitor

four uncles air quality monitor

  • LCD display
  • Measures five pollutants plus temp and humidity
  • Low-noise fan
  • USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 13.12 ounces
  • Display: LCD screen
  • App-connected: No
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): No
  • Pollutants measured: 5
  • AQI displayed: No
  • Battery Life: 8 hours (collected from online reviews)

Pros

  • Basic
  • Compact
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Does not measure CO, CO2, or Rn

Curiously-titled Four Uncles delivers a cost-effective, laser-operated indoor air quality monitor for MSRP $69. The monitor measures levels of five different pollutants. A low-noise fan draws air into the unit, where a laser reads it for transparency and refraction. Then, five different sensors decode the information. Finally, an LCD screen displays real-time values for five common indoor air pollutants.

It’s compact, at about 5.5” long, and powered by a USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Reviews indicate around eight hours of battery life. Four Uncles recommends the device for use in any common indoor space, as well as in the backyard.

It reads the usual suite of PM1.0, PM2.5, PM10, HCHO, and TVOC, and adds humidity and temperature readings. It gives no carbon or radon measurement. Four Uncles suggests sealing the space for 24 hours before testing. Users must calibrate the device by pushing a button 5-10 minutes after powering it on.

See the Four Uncles Air Quality Monitor on Walmart

Best for smart homes: Awair Element Air Quality Monitor

 

awair element air quality monitor

  • Awair app keys functionality
  • Measures three pollutants plus temp and humidity
  • Smart integrated
  • Weight: 1.15 pounds
  • Display: Old-school light-up
  • App-connected: Yes
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): Yes
  • Pollutants measured: 3
  • AQI displayed: No
  • Battery Life: N/A

Pros

  • App can be highly useful with active feedback
  • Agreeable styling

Cons

  • Measures few pollutants

Awair helps users monitor their indoor air quality with the Element monitor and Awair app. The element tracks CO2, TVOC, and PM2.5, plus temperature and humidity. It then feeds the information to the highly-capable associated app. The Element also features smart assistant integrations.

The Awair app is the centerpiece of the smart air quality monitor kit. It displays IAQ data in real-time and stores it as history. It delivers actionable feedback based on ongoing measurements, information on which pollutants are present where, and suggestions for remediation. The app even lets users customize feedback to help with various goals like improving sleep and reducing allergies. As well, the app can act as a hub for multiple Element devices placed in multiple rooms (similar to the Google Home app).

The device is WiFi connected and requires Bluetooth for setup. It is compatible with recent versions of Android and iOS.

Built-in smart integrations and understated appeal make the Awair Element easy to use anywhere in your Alexa or Google Assistant-equipped home. Along with its highly capable app, it packs in a lot of value at MSRP $150.

See the Awair Element Air Quality Monitor on Amazon

See the Awair Element Air Quality Monitor on Walmart

Best value: Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor

 

temtop m10 air quality monitor

  • Large, clear LCD screen
  • Compact Unit
  • Measures four pollutants
  • Calculates AQI
  • Weight: 7.05 ounces
  • Display: LCD screen
  • App-connected: Yes, by buying upgraded product
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): Yes, by buying upgraded product
  • Pollutants measured: 4
  • AQI displayed: Yes
  • Battery Life: 4-6 hours

Pros

  • Easy reading and operation
  • 24/7 customer service

Cons

  • Tricky HCHO calibration
  • Only rudimentary data available

Temtop’s M10 is an air quality monitor with a large, clear display for easy reading of four pollutants. It adds an AQI measurement.

The Temtop M10 is intentionally rudimentary in form and function. It reads PM2.5 and PM10, HCHO, TVOC, and delivers AQI. It displays levels for each pollutant one at a time on its screen. Simply push the top button to toggle between readings. The screen shows battery life and a green/yellow/red light to indicate AQI.

The M10’s battery is USB rechargeable and lasts four to six hours. To calibrate the unit to read HCHO, users must place it outside for six hours. One user found the requirement notably impractical under wildfire conditions.

The Temtop M10 goes for an MSRP of $180 (slashed to $90 as of writing). An app-connected variant, the M10i, stores air quality history and more at MSRP $176.

See the Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor on Amazon

See the Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor on Walmart

 

Best associated app: IQAir AirVisual Pro

iqair airvisual pro

  • Community-centric app
  • Displays indoor and outdoor AQ readings
  • Industrial quality CO2 sensor
  • Programmable alerts
  • Weight: 1.72 pounds
  • Display: LCD
  • App-connected: Yes
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): Yes
  • Pollutants measured: 2
  • AQI displayed: Yes
  • Battery Life: N/A

Pros

  • Ability to share information with other users
  • Displays indoor and outdoor information on one screen

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t measure many pollutants

The IQAir AirVisual Pro sets itself apart from other air quality monitors with an app geared toward sharing air quality information. Other differentiation points include an industrial-grade CO2 sensor, a unique display including both indoor and outdoor air quality information, and a function to program commands based on readings.

Besides reading CO2 and PM2.5, the AirVisual Pro displays AQI and gives humidity, temperature, and even weather and air quality forecasts. IQAir does its best to ensure accuracy with an industrial-grade CO2 sensor. The display is detailed and informative, and just goofy enough to be endearing with its bright colors and cartoon faces.

IQAir’s associated app goes above and beyond to let users tap into the benefits of shared information. As the company puts it, “by placing your AirVisual Pro outdoors and designating it as a public outdoor station, you become a data source, providing neighbors, researchers, and policy advocates valuable information about your local community.” You also become part of that community and benefit from the information shared by others.

Finally, the AirVisual Pro links with IFTTT (if this, then that), which lets users set up alerts that pop up on connected smart devices under certain conditions. For instance, let’s say you want to keep PM2.5 under a certain level because you’ve found you get congested with too much dust in the air, simply set the IQAir to send you a notification when levels get too high, and you’ll know when to let some fresh air in.

All things considered, the IQAir AirVisual Pro is a distinctive device that lets users connect and interact with their community based on air quality data. Get the Air Visual Pro for $270 MSRP.

See the IQAir AirVisual Pro on Amazon

See the IQAir AirVisual Pro on Walmart

 

Most reliable: EG Air Quality Monitor

eg air quality monitor

  • Scientific approach, utilitarian feel
  • Reads five common pollutants
  • Stores historical IAQ data
  • Weight: 9.14 ounces
  • Display: LCD screen
  • App-connected: No
  • Additional features (storage, recommendations): Yes
  • Pollutants measured: 5
  • AQI measured: No
  • Battery Life: 2-3 hrs

Pros

  • Extensively supported by committed pros
  • Bang for your buck

Cons

  • No app connectivity

EG’s air quality tester is a professional-grade device with specialized sensors, specific calibration notes, and a scientific approach to air quality measurement. Its value is based on a lot of terminology and concepts that are beyond the scope of this guide, and my ability to succinctly explain them (what is the role of air convection in an IAQ? What is the value of an electrochemical formaldehyde sensor?) but EG has a Midwest-based technical staff including a chemist to answer any questions.

EG also emails customers a 20+ page eBook about gas and air quality hazards with their purchase. Extensive tips on using the monitor help interpret seemingly erroneous data and minimize misreads. Though it features a simple screen and utilitarian appearance, it stores historical data in charts.

Other than that, the EG’s mechanics are familiar. It reads HCHO, TVOC, PM1.0, 2.5, 10, temperature, and humidity. Information displays on a 2.8” LCD screen. The device is USB rechargeable and works anywhere with two to three hours of battery life.

EG displays its enthusiasm for the topic with a simple yet capable air quality reader that comes with the support of professionals and extensive information. Pick it up at a reasonable MSRP of $116.

See the EG Air Quality Monitor on Amazon

 

Why trust this guide

I live with polluted air, a lot. The Las Vegas valley, where air masses often get stuck between encircling mountains, is highly prone to pollution. Then there’s wildfire season when I’ve seen smoke thick enough to limit visibility to a few hundred yards. I’m interested in my home air quality for the sake of my pets and family.

Who this guide is for

Breathing clean air is a cornerstone of good health. Vulnerable populations (anyone with allergies or compromised health) will get the most out of the best air quality monitors. But if you’re simply interested in your home’s air quality and would like to know more, you can benefit from one too.

How we chose the best air quality monitors

The air quality monitors in this guide suit a variety of uses, lifestyles, and budgets. High-tech entries featuring app connectivity and smart integration are included, as are simple appliances designed to be read easily as you walk by. I even included the best portable air quality monitors.

How we tested air quality monitors

It’s important to use any air quality monitor as intended, so I paid attention to the manufacturer’s instructions first. Then, I subjected each tested monitor to different rooms and situations in my apartment. To test their ability to pick up on obviously polluted air, I set them up next to my cat’s litter box, which happens to be right next to my toilet.

Features to look for in air quality monitors

Smart capabilities

Some air quality monitors are compatible with Alexa and other smart home systems. Check your device’s specifications.

Night light

Are you afraid of the dark? Get an air quality monitor with a night light!

Smartphone/Tablet access

Many air quality monitors are app-based. Make sure your smartphone is compatible with whatever monitor you choose.

LED display

Some units simply display air quality information on their own screens.

Air quality history

Some air quality monitors store past information for your reference. The feature can help track trends and gauge the effectiveness of any changes you make to your home or lifestyle. Cheap air quality monitors often skip this feature.

Measurements

What does your air quality monitor measure? Extremely common measurements include carbon dioxide and monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. Radon detection can be important, especially for people moving into new homes.

Size

Air quality monitoring devices come in all shapes and sizes, but most are sized modestly. I have two: one is the size of a smoke detector, and the other is as big as the original Game Boy.

Accuracy

Air quality monitors should read consistent levels (including cyclical rise and fall) over time to be considered accurate. A chart is a good way to determine air quality monitor accuracy.

Durability

An air quality monitor isn’t any more breakable than a cell phone. Try not to get it too wet or drop it from height.

Ease of use

In my opinion, this is a matter of lifestyle and preference. Do you want to check your air quality monitor once a day as you’re walking past it? Then a simple rig with an easy-to-read display works fine. At the other end of the spectrum, do you want to analyze ongoing data, using it to inform how you use your home environment? Then get an app-connected monitor that stores history and data.

an air quality monitor

 

Air quality monitor FAQ

Q: What are the top pollutants?

A: Common indoor air pollutants include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and radon. VOCs are a group of chemicals that emanate from various sources like paint, fuels, etc., and can be up to 10 times more prevalent indoors than outdoors.

Mold falls under this category as well. Although some air quality monitors can detect particles in the size range of common molds, they can’t identify them.

Q: How do air quality monitors work?

A: Generally, the air quality sensors in this guide indicate the presence of pollutants by measuring another variable that’s easier to measure but is related to the pollutant in question. For instance, some measure light intensity to estimate how much particulate matter is in the air.

Q: What time of day is air quality the best?

A: Upon inspection, this is an incredibly complicated answer. To give a definitive answer would be misinformative. From what I can gather, it depends on your region and topography first, then weather and population behavior. The sources I looked into are attached.

Q: Do air quality monitors detect mold?

A: Only as a size of particulate matter (PM2.5 or PM10) — and that’s only if the spores of whatever mold you’re dealing with fall into those size categories. If you suspect mold, contact professionals.

Q: How do I calibrate my air quality monitor?

A: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. One of my tested monitors took a week to calibrate, during which it was suggested not to move it and to track the app to monitor progress. Another read accurately within a couple of hours of plugging in.

Q: Why is it important to monitor air quality?

A: Anyone interested in improving their health can benefit from air quality information, breathing clean air is vital to human well-being. Populations with allergies or health complications have even more to gain from air quality monitoring.

Sources:

  1. Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality – EPA
  2. Consumer-Grade Air Quality Sensors: Are They Good Enough? – Molekule
  3. Is Morning or Evening Better for Outdoor Exercise? An Evaluation Based on Nationwide PM2.5 Data in China – Aerosol and Air Quality Research (AAQR)
  4. Exercise and Air Quality: 10 Top Tips – NCBI
  5. Radon and Health – WHO
  6. AQI Calculator – AirNow

 

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson Sam Anderson has followed a passion for well-told stories and nature's beauty from university classrooms to mountain adventures. After earning a bachelor's degree in literature, he leaned into a life fueled by road tripping, rock climbing, coffee and beer, and renegade camping. He has worked as a chainsaw operator, house carpenter, and window cleaner, at one point running his own window cleaning business. He has finally settled with his girlfriend and small zoo in the western American desert, trading his tool belt for a keyboard.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments