Countless times I have mentioned that we need to monitor indoor and outdoor air quality. This is an essential step in order to have a holistic approach to air pollution that surrounds us in both environments. Unfortunately, not everybody can afford to buy two monitors but thanks to the community and AirGradient there are two DIY solutions that can help us monitor the air quality quite accurately and of course, manage the air we breathe better.
AirGradient’s DIY solution is more appealing than the competition for many reasons. First of all, you can buy directly the DIY Kit with all the electronic components from them including the PCB. The PCB is the board where we will deploy all the sensors, WiFi module, and display. That is a huge benefit because you don’t have to search on the internet and purchase the components one by one. The well-designed PCB will also help us keep the monitor neat and small without unnecessary cables. Secondly, Air Gradient’s DIY AQ Monitor is very customizable allowing us to build an indoor monitor with an NDIR CO2 sensor but another one without a CO2 sensor or display for the outdoor environment. If you don’t want temperature/humidity sensors you can easily omit them too, but I highly recommend them. Moreover, there is software support as a community of passionate people have been improving the firmware constantly. Finally, the solution comes with a web dashboard where you can manage all the monitors and take advantage of the histograms and tools like the alerts.
Additionally, the devices which are connected to the cloud and the dashboard can broadcast the measurements back to a separate display (Viewport) which allows us to see the air quality indoors and outdoors like in the example below. Isn’t that very cool?
It has been a long time since I soldered something, so I was very happy to build the monitor. I built two monitors by following the fairly easy instruction here. There is also a video with the instructions here by Jeff Geerling.
What’s new? Well, lots of new Outdoor Air Quality Monitors have been released into the market for various purposes and different budgets. Air quality monitors for professional use in cities and industrial sites and homeowners who want to supervise the ambient air quality outside their houses/apartments.
This time, I have included the General Star Score from the AIRLAB Challenge 2021 for the monitors that took part. The Ethera NEMo Outdoor monitor scored the highest with 4.5 Stars out of 5.
uRADMonitor with the Smoggie and City models scored 4/5 and 3.5/5, respectably. Also the Kunak Air Pro which I will review soon scored 4/5. It is great to see that all these solutions deliver accurate results.
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In 2021, IKEA made available an indoor air quality monitor, which is very very affordable. I bought one because I was curious to answer some basic questions like how did they manage to build and sell a particulate matter sensor that costs only 14€ or US$12 but also how smart and reliable is it in relation to other monitors.
IKEA is obsessed with naming all their products with Swedish words, so the AQ monitor VINDRIKTNING (which I can’t pronounce) translates as Wind Direction. Obviously, they don’t aim to create names memorable to people’s minds.
Let me share a story with you. Long before covid19 (2018 if I remember well) I and a company I worked for, decided to pitch IKEA into building an AQ monitor as I saw their interest in air quality because they designed some photocatalyst curtains that neutralized VOCs back then. Unfortunately, they turned us down, but I think we planted a seed into them. Long story short in 2021 they released the VINDRIKTNING.
Countless times, I have said that it is very important to monitor our indoor air quality side by side with the outdoor air quality. A collaboration between Airthings and Airly brought the best of both worlds, ambient air quality and indoor air quality monitoring in one place. Unfortunately, this solution is available only to the business customers but we can always hope that the demand will drive the feature to the consumer clients as well.
Why in & out AQ monitoring is important?
Our indoor air quality depends on many factors like building material, furniture, and indoor activities (cooking in a home or printing documents in an office, the perfumes people wear, etc). All of these factors will determine indoor air quality from the inside but indoor air quality is subject to outdoor conditions too. Vehicle traffic, marine traffic (in case you live near a port), wood-burning, industrial activities in the area, and wildfires are some of the reasons that will affect indoor air quality as buildings need to breathe or ventilate if you want.
Long story short gamification works and should be adopted by IoT Air Quality Monitor and their Air Quality apps in order to achieve a behavior change.
What is gamification?
Gamification is adding game mechanics into non-game environments, like a website, a fitness app, or air quality apps to increase participation. The goal of gamification is to engage with users to inspire, collaborate, share, and interact.
Let’s take as an example Apple’s fitness app, those who wear an Apple Watch they know what I am talking about. Each month the application engages users by offering them a digital award, as a result, last month I had to burn actively 19.300 calories in order to win a shine yellow badge. On special days the app encourages you to complete a specific workout to win a special award like for the World Environment Day or Earth’s Day.
Back in April, I and uRADMonitor shipped 5 Smoggie-PM to 5 volunteers in order to help them raise awareness but also to investigate what people breathe in other parts of the world, like in Belgium, Uganda, Azerbaijan, the USA, and Spain. Unfortunately, the US volunteer doesn’t respond to my emails and he hasn’t set the monitor up yet. I hope he is fine and covid-19 or any other possible problem hasn’t affected him.
In this article, I will analyze the data from two of the locations in order to determine the Air Quality (AQ) and get some conclusions that will help my volunteers. Here are some of the photos the volunteers have sent me.
It is always recommended to place the AQ monitors under the shade as sunlight can increase the internal temperature and consequentially the measurements of temperature and humidity will be incorrect.
Someone may ask what more they can offer to an already saturated market of air quality monitors. The answer is simple: Experience! TSI Incorporated is a USA-based company with more than 60 years of experience and knowledge thanks to the 1000 researchers and engineers that work for the company worldwide. They hold more than 50 patents.
Recently, TSI released the AirAssure which is an IoT-enabled Indoor Air Quality Monitor (AQM) designed specifically for buildings that really need to have an in-depth and accurate view of the indoor air quality. The monitor comes in two versions the 4-gas and 6-gas variation. I am going to review the 4-gas AirAssure IAQM that comes with a Formaldehyde, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, and Total Volatile Organic Compounds sensors. Apart from the 4 or 6 gas sensors configurations, all versions come with a particulate matter sensor and a temperature/humidity/barometric pressure sensor. Also, a new CO2 and VOC model will be released this autumn.
Technical Specs 4-Gas AirAssure
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Total Volatile Organic Compounds (tVOC)
Particulate matter (PM)
Temperature, Relative humidity and Barometric pressure
In August 2021 (summer in Northern Hemisphere), I travelled from Spain to Greece in order to visit my parents as I hadn’t see them for a long time due to the pandemic. I visited 10 countries and I evaluated the air quality with a portable air quality monitor (Atmotube PRO) but as well as the behavior of the people in these countries as they tend to have different customs when it comes to cooking or transporting around the cities.
This evaluation is very narrow because of the fact that I didn’t stay longer than a day or two in each city so take it with a pinch of salt. Also, the climatological conditions were entangled to the summer month of August and high temperatures were expected in the Mediterranean coastline. Wildfires are more likely to occur during the dry month of August and indeed I witnessed a few in the Balkans.
Autumn and Winter are almost here for the Northern Hemisphere which means a vast majority of the population is going to leave terraces and other open outdoor spaces for indoor spaces (offices, classrooms, homes, indoor restaurants, etc). Covid-19 is still present, but most importantly, we are going to breathe lots of indoor air. We need to take control of the air we breathe as indoors is much easier to diminish the quantity of pollutants we inhale than been outside.
Covid-19 has ruined the lives of many people, personally, I believe that it is very easy to combat the spread of the virus in enclosed spaces, but we need to follow the rules of proper ventilation and purification combined. Scientists have developed various kinds of technologies that can capture pollutants and pathogens. I don’t want to focus very much on the pandemic rather than how important is to breathe clean and fresh air indoors for so many other reasons.
Wildfires: some say that we have to learn to live with them, some say that we need to stay indoors and close doors, windows, and ventilation systems until the plumes of smoke settle down, but in reality, we have to do something else, I will elaborate on that in a flaming hot minute!
Wildfires are very dangerous and destructive for many reasons. When I read on the news that a new fire started even in the most remote location in the world, I take a deep breath because it can happen to anyone and everywhere. It has happened to my parents’ house, and a vast feeling of impotency takes your whole body. In most cases, we worry about the destructiveness, but it is more than that.
Wildfires can occur naturally but unfortunately in most cases, they are byproducts of unconscious anthropogenic behaviour because we leave trash everywhere. Glass bottles that work as magnifying glass under the hot summer sunlight, cigarette buds, fireworks, BBQs are some of the common reasons wildfires start.
Not many people know this but wildfires create new wildfires through pyrocumulus clouds which basically are the cloud plumes that are electrically charged, as a result, lightning bolts come out of the pyrocumulus clouds which light new fires a few kilometers away. Firefighters have a hard time controlling multiple fronts and those kinds of fronts are unpredictably created.