The best air quality monitors of 2022

The best air quality monitors of 2022
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Updated Nov 21, 2022 10: 19 AM

Nothing beats fresh air. Unless, of course that “fresh” quality air has been contaminated with chemicals, soot, and other forest fire byproducts or “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), then it is not worth the effort. Even the most experienced noses may have trouble judging the quality of their local air, especially when there are odorless gases. So what can you do? You can call an air quality professional or do your own tracking using one of our top picks for best air quality monitors.

How we selected the best air quality monitors

Choosing the best air quality monitors was not as simple as clicking the “Add to Cart” button. With such a product, the customer sentiment and manufacturer-supplied specs really mean a lot less than in-depth product analysis from researchers and experts that were able to compare consumer-facing products with laboratory-grade equipment. This results in a limited product selection. However, I was able identify five air quality monitors I can recommend.

The best air quality monitors: Reviews & Recommendations

What’s the best air quality monitor for you? The best air quality monitors are tested by official sources. They come in many styles and configurations. While the Temtop M2000 2nd Generation is the top pick for air quality monitor, due to its ease of use and robust testing ability, our four other monitors might be right for you depending on your circumstances. These are the five best air quality monitors currently available in the market.

Best overall: Temtop M2000 2nd Generation

Why it made the cut: The Temtop M2000 2nd Generation tests for a wide variety of pollutants, has built-in calibration, and includes an audible alarm.

Specs

  • Measures: CO2, HCHO (formaldehyde), PM2.5/PM10, Temp., Humidity
  • AQ-SPEC report: High consistency
  • Type: Handheld

Pros

  • Tests many things all in one device
  • High consistency across many devices
  • Has an audible alarm for when levels rise too high
  • Tried and tested by several school systems

Cons

  • Doesn’t work in temperatures below freezing

The Temtop M2000 2nd Generation is a relatively easily operated handheld air quality monitor that has been widely used. It has been used by the New York State Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers has used it to measure Carbon Dioxide levels in schools in efforts to fight Covid-19.

The 2nd Generation product improves upon the original Temtop M2000 by adding a data export feature. This is really useful because, as mentioned by the AQ-SPEC report, where the Temtop M2000 2nd Generation suffers losses in accuracy it makes up for it with high levels of consistency. The reading levels should be consistent across multiple Temtops in the same situation. This allows you to pinpoint when contamination levels started rising even if you need a replacement device.

I’m also pleased that the system attempts to calibrate. Although the system’s overall capabilities are sufficient to handle the average user’s concerns about accuracy, consistency, or difficulty, it is still a great tool. The calibration process involves leaving the device outside for long periods of time. This can be annoying but it is manageable.

In reality, the main concern with the device is its inability to function below degrees Fahrenheit. Without being able to function below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the supposed “indoor-outdoor” nature of the device is cut off for many months of the year for those of us too far North or South of the equator. In-home monitoring is still possible all year.

Finally, if you like the look of the M2000 2nd Generation, but are looking for something quite a bit cheaper, our budget choice also comes from Temtop. The Temtop P20 has reduced features, but also a reduced price tag.

Best smart: Atmotube Pro Portable

Why it made the cut: The Atmotube Pro attaches directly to your backpack or belt clip and alerts your phone directly when there’s a problem.

Specs

  • Measures: PM1/PM2.5/PM10, VOCs, Temp., Humidity, Barometric Pressure
  • AQ-SPEC report: High accuracy, high precision
  • Type: Wearable

Pros

  • Impressive accuracy counts
  • Handy app alerts
  • Works well across a wide variety of temperatures and humidities
  • Keychain size

Cons

  • Shorter battery life than hoped for

The Atmotube Pro Portable, a keychain-sized air quality monitor, is small enough to be carried around or placed anywhere. All of the data collected will be at your fingertips via the Atmo app, available free for Android and iOS devices.

The app will provide you with your personal stats and access to global and personal maps. It also offers a series of articles that will help you understand the air quality. For further analysis, you can also export your device data to a CSV file.

According to the Atmotube’s AQ-SPEC results, the device is quite accurate, ranging from 86% to 98% across a variety of conditions. The AQ-SPEC report notes that the device is very consistent in a variety environmental conditions. Heat and humidity have “minimal effect” on its precision. The Atmotube Pro is small but delivers high quality results.

The battery life is one of the biggest disappointments with Atmotube Pro. The battery is small, as you would expect from such a small device. When the device is set to take measurements only once every 30 minutes, you can squeeze about a week out of the little battery. The battery will die much faster if you crank it up a bit. This is a very bad thing for a device you are trying to forget about and set up. If the device isn’t intended to be mobile, it can be plugged into the charger.

Why it made the cut: The AirLink is made for both indoor and outdoor usage, provides beautiful charts, and works well with other Davis Instruments systems.

Specs

  • Measures: AQI, Temp., Humidity, Dew Point, Heat Index
  • AQ-SPEC report: Highly accurate for PM1.0/PM2.5, but not for PM10, consistent
  • Type: Indoor or outdoor

Pros

  • Weatherlink.com integration
  • Easy to read graphs and charts
  • Installs easily both indoors and out
  • Integrates into your Davis weather station

Cons

  • Poor PM10 reading

The Davis Instruments AirLink has a robust body that can be placed in both indoor and outdoor environments. You can place it on a table or desk if you wish to keep it in your home. To reduce the chance of it sliding on smooth surfaces, it has four safety feet. You can mount it outside, near an outlet, and attach the weather-resistant cover.

If you are interested in more than just air quality monitoring you will be able to appreciate the additional data the AirLink tracks such as heat index and dew point. You’ll also be happy to note that it will connect with weatherlink.com and can integrate with your other Davis weather station products. These services are also available on your phone via the WeatherLink app.

I really appreciate the professional output. However, it feels closer to what one would expect from a cable station than what a lab coat-wearing person would read. The only thing I was disappointed with is that, as per the AirLink’s AQ-SPEC report, the PM10 readings weren’t too accurate. This is a minor trade-off for a home system that works well and most consumers will be happy with the machine.

Best portable: Sensirion SPS30

Why it made the cut: The Sensirion SPS30 is a no-frills machine dedicated to particulate matter testing.

Specs

  • Measures: PM1.0/PM2.5/PM4.0/PM10
  • AQ-SPEC report: High precision
  • Type: Portable

Pros

  • Small size
  • 8-year lifetime
  • Long-term stability and contamination-resistance
  • Moddable

Cons

  • Drab UI makes interpreting data difficult

If you’re wanting to feel like you’re really in the lab, the Sensirion SPS30 might be right up your alley. Right from the moment I opened the company’s product introduction video, I felt instantly reintroduced to the lab environment I once came from.

Where this really shines is the Sensirion SPS30’s great moddability. For example, some users are soldering them on bikes for CanAirIO, a citizen science project dedicated to building a citizen network for monitoring air quality throughout the world. Its simple USB port connection and the large amount of data generated by it lend it to many projects. You can also pair it with smart home devices, air conditioners, HVAC equipment, and many other things.

Where this “lab environment feel” really doesn’t shine is the UI. You probably know what I mean if you have ever worked with niche data-collection devices or in-company software. Although you will get a lot, it won’t look great or be easy to read. Check out the company’s demonstration video for an up-close look at the graphs provided by the machine before deciding on whether or not to make a purchase.

As for the Sensirion SPS30’s AQ-SPEC report, the key thing to know is that the device is highly precise across temperatures and humidity levels. While PM1.0 and PM2.5 levels were highly accurately measured in field and laboratory testing, PM10 levels were shown to be highly inaccurate in the field trials.

Best budget: Temtop P20

Why it made the cut: This budget solution will take care of all of your basic air quality monitoring needs.

Specs

  • Measures: PM2.5, Temp., Humidity
  • AQ-SPEC report: Higher precision at low temperatures
  • Type: Desktop or mountable

Pros

  • Highly accessible interface
  • Everything needed for wall mounting included
  • Can double as a nice desk or wall clock
  • Exportable data

Cons

  • Limited pollutants measured, but still great for price
  • Low battery life

Given that a laboratory-grade air quality tester can cost thousands of dollars it seems impossible to find a comparable one within the two-digit range. However, with Temtop’s P20, that isn’t true.

The Temtop P20 is able to measure PM2.5 pollutants. It would be nice to be able to measure other pollutants and other sizes of particulate matter. However, it is possible to do one thing very well for the budget tier. The P20’s AQ-SPEC report tells us that the machine’s precision is most accurate when the local temperature is lower. That being said, the measurements indicate an accuracy of over 90% for most conditions at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

You’ll probably enjoy having the Temtop P20 around, as it is also a rather nice LCD screen clock. A cute smiley face interprets PM2.5 levels to help take some of the mystery out. Another smiley face interprets the local humidity levels in the same way.

While the device can be mounted to the wall and comes with the screws required, I recommend using the backstand and using it as a desk-monitoring device. It will be difficult to see the numbers, time and smiley faces on the wall. It will also be easier to keep the battery charged up, as it only lasts 6-8 hours on one charge.

Finally, data-minded people will be happy. Much like the Temtop M2000 2nd Generation, our top choice of air quality monitor, the Temtop P20 has USB connectivity to export the collected data in CSV format.

Things to consider before buying air quality monitors

One thing that is clear from the current research, is that air quality monitors are still a new market. There are many claims about accuracy that are either false or not thoroughly verified by scientists or regulatory boards. These are the main points to keep in mind when purchasing an air quality monitor:

Target pollutant

In a fantasy world, an Air Quality Monitor would be able detect any potential dangers in the air and inform you. Air quality monitors in reality must be able to detect specific contaminants. It is not difficult to identify the pollutants that an air quality monitor monitors, as they are almost always clearly displayed in the ads and specs. However, you may be overwhelmed by a few new terms. Here’s a quick guide to help you get up to speed about air pollution vocabulary:

PM: PM stands for “particulate matter” and measurements of it are able to tell you how many liquid or solid particles of varying sizes are in your air. The particle size is measured in microns. PM2.5 measures the amount of particles in your air. The makers of the Atmotube report that PM1 particles are typically emissions from factories and vehicles, PM2.5 particles usually come from fires and combustion, and PM10 particles are from pollen, mold, and fine bits of old plants and insects. You’ll find that PM2.5 is a common measurement taken by portable air purifiers, such as the conveniently compact Wynd Plus personal air purifier with air quality sensor.

AQI: This stands for Air Quality Index and is a popular, but somewhat outdated, method for measuring air quality. Essentially, the AQI measures pollutant levels for a wide variety of substances, gives them each a score from 0-500, and reports the highest one. It doesn’t matter whether one pollutant is high, or if there are many, only the highest one is being reported. The historical data can still be used to convert each pollutant. If you want to play around with the system, a handy AQI calculator is available for you.

VOCs: These are “Volatile Organic Compounds” and largely come from human sources. The EPA warns that sources of these contaminants include household cleaners, building materials, and standard office equipment. These pollutants are also found in higher concentrations indoors, according to the EPA. VOCs are a big part of the reason why our recommended floor cleaners focused so heavily on ingredients. Certain high-end air purifiers, such as the Dyson Purifier Humidify Cool Formaldehyde, are specifically equipped with sensors attuned to these byproducts we bring into our homes as we upgrade furnishings and electronics, etc.

Scientific usage

Before you make any purchase of an important product such as an air quality monitor, ensure that experts have reviewed it. That can be as simple as running a Google search with “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” followed by the product name or trawling through the depths of the “Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center” (AQ-SPEC) website.

AQSPEC provides detailed data on air sensors following real-world field trials. While AQ-SPEC reports explicitly state that they are not an endorsement of a particular monitor, the evaluations are free for the manufacturer if the sensors are “low-cost” and meet basic selection criteria. A manufacturer’s good faith in their product is demonstrated by simply submitting a sensor to an AQ-SPEC report.

All of the air quality monitors in our list have a detailed AQSPEC report. These reports can be quite dense and read more like a journal submission for a Ph.D. than a consumer-facing report. These reports are difficult to digest. I have tried to simplify them, but if you’re interested, you can read them yourself.

Accuracy & consistency

Consistency and accuracy look very similar but can have a big impact on our perceptions of an air quality monitoring device. As you might be able to gather from a recent analysis by the Berkeley Lab, accuracy is going to be difficult to maintain but high consistency will make these machines still quite valuable sources of information for your home.

Part of the reason is calibration, which laboratory equipment goes through frequently. Consider the pH machine as an example. In my lab days, I recall calibrating this machine almost every day I used it. I used specialized liquid solutions. Imagine calibrating an airmeter at home. It appears that cheap calibration is on the way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy or reliably done by the average person.

This means that when high-quality calibrations are not possible, we can expect some loss in accuracy. This might not be a problem depending on the measurement. For example, your home thermometer is likely about 1 degree off but it is still enough to tell you that you have a fever. It is important to get something that is accurate enough to your needs.

Perhaps consistency is more important than any other factor. Although many consumer-grade air quality monitors can show a bias after being used for several days, it is possible to still get very useful information if the bias is consistent. If your readings for Carbon Dioxide suddenly jump above what you are used too, then you know that you have a problem.

FAQs

Q: How much do air quality monitors cost?

Air quality monitors can cost anywhere from around $80 to a few hundred dollars. Laboratory-grade air quality monitors can cost over $2,000 and quickly get into the several-thousand-dollar range depending on their specifications. Routine maintenance and calibration are also possible for these high-end machines. Our selection of the best air quality monitors has been tested against professional machines and performed well.

Q: Can an air quality monitor detect mold?

An air quality monitor can be a mold detector but won’t be able to tell you that you have mold. Molds are typically detected by PM10 sensors, but so are other particulate matters, like pollen. So, an air quality monitor that can test for PM10 particles will be able to detect mold particles in your air but not tell you that those particles are mold.

Q: What is the best way to monitor air quality in industrial dusty rooms?

The best way to monitor air quality in industrial dusty rooms is to get your dust problem under control quickly. If you can see that your air quality is poor, then you will need an air quality monitor. We’ve reviewed air purifiers for home and office, but I suspect most of them will work for smaller industrial rooms just as well.

Final thoughts on the best air quality monitors

A high-quality, portable air quality monitor is not only for professionals in the laboratory. Although the field of personal air quality monitoring remains new, there are still many great products. We have compiled a list of five air quality monitors that combine the most rigorous testing conditions with commercial availability. We are confident that customers will be satisfied with any of these products.

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