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In response to the wildfires raging on the West Coast, those who live nearby are concerned about the smoke, which is drastictically impacting the air quality index (AQI). In fact, just last weekend Los Angeles experienced the worst air quality in over 25 years, according to data from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. To help mitigate smoke in their homes, people on the West Coast have been using air purifiers—and in addition to this, people have been using apps and monitors to see what the air quality is inside and outside.
To understand the air quality outdoors—and when it will be safe to go outside or open the windows—people are turning to air quality apps and websites like AirNow and PurpleAir. Each reads U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), a color-coded scale from 0 to 500 used to show air quality, for the specific area. Anything under 50 is considered good, whereas anything over 300 is hazardous.
But when it comes to measuring air quality in one’s home, people are turning to indoor air quality monitors. According to Google Trends, indoor and outdoor air quality monitors have reached their peak in search this year. However, before you buy one, it’s important to know how they check air quality and if they are even worth having in your home.
How indoor air quality monitors work
These monitors show your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), which is the measurement of the quality of air inside your home. The reason you’d want this measurement is to see if smoke has gotten inside. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of the pollutants that impact air quality the most include radon, secondhand smoke, combustion pollutant, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It’s also important to note that one test might not give you the full picture of your air quality. For example, one for radon might not tell you anything about VOCs or mold.
In order to determine the air quality in a contained area, like your home, you’re going to need an indoor air quality monitor. Air quality monitors should measure a particulate matter of 2.5 microns (a.k.a. PM2.5) as these particles can penetrate the lungs and lead to health problems. They should also monitor VOCs, so you be aware of any potential gasses and odors.
Plus, learning what’s in the air in your home will give you peace of mind, and can help you take action to minimize pollutants by knowing what to pinpoint.
“Monitoring your indoor/outdoor air quality makes sense, but in reality, air quality monitors are best used in conjunction with a product like an air purifier that actually allows you to improve your indoor air quality,” says Julia MacDougall, Reviewed’s Senior Scientist.
Where to buy air quality monitors
PurpleAir sells both indoor and outdoor air quality sensors. They measure smoke, dust, and other particulate air pollution that may be in and around your home, so you can determine whether or not you should use an air purifier—or evacuate your current living situation.
While we haven’t tested indoor air quality monitors ourselves, there are highly rated indoor air purifiers on the market like the Airthings Wave Plus, which measures radon, carbon dioxide, toxins and chemicals (total VOCs), humidity, temperature, and air pressure sensors to get a sense of your indoor air quality and has an intuitive app as well. Other more affordable options include the Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor and the Awair Glow C, both of which are under $100 and track a variety of VOCs pollutants.
Where to buy air purifiers with built-in air quality monitors
While testing air purifiers, smart home writer, Rachel Murphy, used the corresponding Coway IO Care app to the Coway Airmega AP-1512HHS Air Purifier, which tests the air quality inside of your home as well shows what the air quality is outdoors. While it didn’t come out on top in our testing and is currently out of stock, she still liked the insights it provided. Additionally, we’ve tested Wynd, a travel sized smart air purifier with a corresponding sensor and app that monitors airborne particulates in your immediate environment, which is another option for an air quality monitor/air purifier duo.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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