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Best air quality monitor 2021: How clean is your air?

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Protect your family from fine particle pollutants and track VOCs and Radon in the home

While our cities aren’t the deadly smog traps they once were, air pollution remains a serious issue around the UK. In March this year, the EU Court of Justice ruled that the UK had broken legal pollution limits for over a decade, with levels of nitrogen dioxide, produced by diesel vehicles, illegally high in 75% of urban areas.

Poor air quality still causes around 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK, with fine and ultrafine particles linked to everything from breathing problems like asthma and emphysema to lung cancer, strokes, dementia, cognitive impairments and even liver disease.

Meanwhile, building materials, paints and furnishings can give off Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that have equally harmful effects. Many areas of the UK are affected by high levels of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that’s responsible for around half of our exposure to radiation. It’s considered one of the largest causes of lung cancer outside of smoking and industrial pollution.

You can fight air pollution with fans, air purifiers and ventilation, but only if you know what you’re fighting. This is where air quality monitors come in, giving you an accurate means of detecting and tracking levels of pollutants in your home, so that you can take action where you need to.

How to choose the best air quality monitor for you

Air quality monitors break down into two main types. We’ll mostly be looking at indoor models designed to sit within one room and provide continuous monitoring of the air quality within that space, but there are also portable devices designed for indoor and outdoor use. They’re often used by professionals or those with respiratory conditions to provide a quick assessment of air conditions wherever they are.

Beyond that, the main distinctions come down to the style and size of the monitor, any displays or connectivity, the software it hooks up to and what pollutants and conditions it detects. This last point is particularly important, as while most air quality monitors track levels of fine particulate matter under 2.5 microns (or PM2.5) and/or VOCs, some go much further to monitor temperature, humidity, finer particles (down to 1 micron, or PM1), radon gas, mould and carbon dioxide.

The more pollutants detected, the higher the cost, but that’s a price that may be worth paying if you live in an area with high radon levels or specific environmental concerns. That goes double if you or a member of your household suffers from a condition that might be triggered or aggravated by certain pollutants.

Is there anything else worth looking out for?

Most air quality monitors are battery powered, as this gives you maximum flexibility when deciding where you place them. They may require one or more long-life batteries or a rechargeable battery that needs to be topped up over a USB cable, although these shouldn’t need charging too often.

Connectivity also differs from monitor to monitor. Some use Bluetooth to communicate with a smartphone app, while others can hook up to a Wi-Fi connection, and even communicate with Apple Homekit or Alexa smart home hubs to control other supported devices, including air purifiers, dehumidifiers and fans.

Perhaps the most important feature, though, is how they communicate with you. As these are small devices you’re usually either looking at a coloured air quality indicator or a small display, but smartphone apps give you more information and allow you to track air quality, temperature and humidity over time, which can be really useful if you’re trying to keep an eye on wider trends.

The clearer and easier these apps are to use, the more you’ll get out of your air quality monitor, so it’s definitely worth taking into account.

What can you do about your air quality?

In most cases your best option is ventilation: open up some windows and get some air moving in the house. However, if you live in one of the UK’s most-affected regions this might not be enough. Air purifiers are now very affordable and can be used to improve air quality in the rooms where you spend most of your time.

Similarly, dehumidifiers can help in rooms where there’s too much moisture and a risk of damp and mould. If you have high levels of radon, you may need more specialist advice. More ventilation or an active air management system may be necessary to get your radon levels down. You can find more information and advice on the government’s radon website.

READ NEXT: The best humidifier

The best air quality monitors to buy

1. Kaiterra Laser Egg + Chemical: The best all-round air quality monitor

Price: £180 | Buy now from Kaiterra

Kaiterra manufactures three different Laser Egg monitors, starting with the basic £140 Laser Egg, which measures PM2.5 fine particles, to the £180 + Chemical and + CO2 models, which add VOC and carbon dioxide detection, respectively, to the mix.

Either way, you get a distinctive design, with what looks like a large goose egg, chopped in half and propped up on one side, and the face dominated by a 2.6in colour LCD display that gives you up-to-date info on current levels, temperature and relative humidity.

The real-time nature of the Laser Egg+ is arguably its biggest strength. You can watch the readout go up and down almost instantly when you light a fire or spray any chemicals in the vicinity. We tested the + Chemical version and it’s definitely worth having if you’re worried by VOCs in your home. It reacted when placed in a recently painted room, but also picked up other rises and falls that you might not normally have expected.

The display can be a bit distracting, but there’s an option to turn it right down through the smartphone app, which also does a great job of tracking changes over the last few minutes, hours or days.

The Laser Egg also works with Apple Homekit or IFTTT over Wi-Fi and can be used to trigger smart air purifiers or fans in the home. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and the app works like a charm. The only minor issue is that, with only eight hours of battery life with the screen turned on, you really need to keep the charger handy – or even plugged in. However, if you leave it in standby mode without the display active, a single charge should last you for up to a week.

Key specs – Pollutants monitored: PM2.5, VOCs (+ Chemical), CO2 (+ CO2); Temperature: Yes; Humidity: Yes; Display: 2.6in LCD; Connectivity: Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz); Apps: iOS, Android; Power: Built-in li-ion; Dimensions: 106 x 106 x 88mm

Buy now from Kaiterra


2. Airthings Wave Plus: The best air quality monitor for VOCs and Radon

Price: £210 | Buy now from Amazon

It might look like a simple smoke detector, but the Airthings Wave Plus is one of the most comprehensive air quality monitors around, detecting VOCs, CO2 and radon gas while also collecting data on temperature, humidity and air pressure.

It gives you everyday feedback using a central coloured ring, which shifts from green through amber and into red according to the overall level of air quality when you wave your hand in front of it. If you want more detailed information, you can get it through a web-based dashboard or Airthings’ smartphone app. This will give you the most recent figures for VOC, radon and CO2 concentrations, and a handy graph showing their rise and fall with 12-hour, 48-hour, week, month and year views.

While it’s not quite as speedy to register changes in air quality as the Kaiterra Laser Egg+ Chemical, we found it accurately tracked them over hours and days, making it easy to see the difference when moved to a just painted upstairs bedroom or placed near a lit woodburner in the living room downstairs. The only downside is that there’s no particulate sensor, meaning some pollutants may go undetected.

The unit connects to your phone via Bluetooth, though you can also connect it to an optional Airthings Hub for real-time updates when your phone isn’t around. This also enables you to get the latest readings through an Alexa or Google Nest smart speaker, or use the data to control other devices in the home through IFTTT, without having your phone in range. The Wave Plus can also be wall or ceiling mounted, and it’s powered by two AA batteries which should last for around 16 months.

There's no getting around the fact that the Wave Plus is expensive, but it’s a straightforward and thoroughly informative monitor.

Key specs – Pollutants monitored: VOCs, CO2, radon; Temperature: Yes; Humidity: Yes; Display: Ring indicator; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, Airthings SmartLink; Apps: Android, iOS, web dashboard; Power: 2 x AA batteries; Dimensions: 120 x 120 x 36mm


3. Eve Room: The iPhone-friendly air quality monitor you’ll barely notice

Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for an unobtrusive air quality monitor, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything dinkier than the Eve Room. It’s a tiny square unit with a 200 x 200 pixel e-ink display that gives you a star rating for the current air quality based on detection of VOCs, temperature and humidity.

It also works hand-in-hand with Apple’s Homekit and Eve’s iOS app, which can track all three metrics across a period of hours, days or weeks. It can even trigger HomeKit-compatible air purifiers, dehumidifiers or fans.

It’s very easy to use, although, as with the Airthings products, there’s no tracking of PM2.5 pollutants, just VOCs. It connects to your iPhone or iPad over Bluetooth Low Energy, and only needs charging roughly every six weeks over micro-USB.

We found it as quick as the Airthings products to react to changes in the air, and it gives you peace of mind in a miniscule package. The only problem? As a Homekit-only product, it’s of no use if you’re not an iPhone/iPad user.

Key specs – Pollutants monitored: VOCs; Temperature: Yes; Humidity: Yes; Display: 200 x 200 pixel E Ink; Connectivity: Bluetooth LE; Apps: iOS; Power: Internal li-ion; Dimensions: 54 x 54 x 15mm


4. Temtop M10i: The best all-rounder for around £100

Price: £125 | Buy now from Temtop

The Temtop M10i covers more ground than the entry-level monitors, detecting both PM2.5 fine particulates and dangerous VOCs with a special interest in HCHO or Formaldehyde. You can see the current levels update in real-time on the bright LCD screen, switching between them with a click of the button on the top. What’s more, the unit will connect over Wi-Fi and allow you to get updates through an iOS or Android app, complete with daily graphs to help you track pollution levels as they go up and down. It’s a shame there aren’t weekly or monthly views, but you can export the data as an Excel spreadsheet if you want more detailed, long-term analysis.

The device itself is compact, good-looking and easy to use, with an indicator LED that shifts from green to red if pollutant levels climb too high. However, while there’s a battery for portable use, you really need to keep it plugged into a USB charger; the battery only lasts for around six hours and the M10i doesn’t go automatically into standby. The M10i just switches off and stops capturing any data. This one caveat aside, it’s a top air quality monitor for the money.

Key specs – Pollutants monitored: VOCs, PM2.5, Formaldehyde (HCHO); Temperature: No; Humidity: No; Display: 3.5in mono LCD; Connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi; Apps: iOS, Android; Power: Built-in li-ion; Dimensions: 81 x 81 x 30mm

Buy now from Temtop


5. Airthings Wave Mini: The best entry-level air quality monitor

Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon

If the Airthings Wave Plus is too pricey for your budget, the Wave Mini gives you many of the same features at a much lower price and in a smaller unit. This one mostly monitors humidity, temperature and VOCs, but it also has a handy mould-risk function, which uses data from the sensors to assess your room’s chances of developing mould and mildew.

The Wave Plus’s ring becomes a smaller, single indicator here, but it still works in much the same way. Wave your hand over the Wave Mini, and it’ll light up a tone between red and green to give you a clear visual indication of your current air quality.

Otherwise, the Wave Mini works in much the same way as its bigger sibling, connecting to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth or through Airthings SmartLink to an Airthings hub.This still means you don’t get real-time updates without your phone in close proximity, but you can use the app or web dashboard to track changes in air quality or set up IFTTT routines to run a fan or dehumidifier if the sensor hits a certain target.

It might be mini, but it’s still packed with features and we didn’t find it any less sensitive or effective than the larger Wave. That makes it a great entry-level device.

Key specs – Pollutants monitored: VOCs, mould risk detection; Temperature: Yes; Humidity: Yes; Display: LED indicator; Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2; Apps: iOS, Android, web-based dashboard; Power: 3 x AAA; Dimensions: 80 x 80 x 26mm


6. Temtop AQD-P200: The best portable air quality monitor

Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

The Temtop AQD-P200 is designed for handheld spot use in a range of environments rather than continuous use in the home, but it’s a useful device for testing PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations both inside and outside the house. It doesn’t do anything beyond that, with no VOC or even temperature or humidity detection, but it’s quick to take readings, sensitive to changes and easy to use. Just turn it on and it’ll detect the current levels, and you can pause and continue monitoring with a quick tap of a play/pause button.

It’s powered by three AA batteries, which should last for weeks of use, and the unit shuts itself off after around five minutes to preserve the charge. There are no additional connectivity options, smartphone apps or ways to track your data, but if you want to keep track of fine particle pollutants – both indoors and outdoors – then ADQ-P200 does it at a low cost with precious little fuss.

Key specs – Pollutants monitored: PM10, PM2.5; Temperature: n; Humidity: n; Display: 2.3in mono LCD screen; Connectivity: n/a; Apps: n/a; Power: 3x AA batteries; Dimensions: 167 x 65 x 31mm

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