A few years ago, when I started this website, I was amazed at how little knowledge and accessible information there was regarding air pollution. In fact, that was one of the primary reasons I started this site – to share information on the causes and effects of air pollution.
While it’s only a few years later, I feel like we are seeing increased awareness around air pollution. More and more people are becoming aware of the dangers, which often leads to the question, ‘how can I monitor my air quality?’. This is a great question because while it’s easy to learn about air quality, it’s much harder to know when to act.
Luckily, we now have a range of tools perfectly suited to letting us know when air pollution threatens our health. These are air quality monitors, and not only are there tons of choices now but there are also many affordable options.
Air quality monitors are devices designed to record pollutant levels – whether PM1, PM2.5, VOCs, Co2, or otherwise. These devices provide insight into an otherwise (usually) invisible world that greatly impacts our physical and mental health.
However, with so many air quality monitors on the market, it can be hard to choose the right one. With so many monitors featuring different sensors, features, and connectivity options, it’s almost becoming overwhelming to pick the best-fitting device.
Since I have a lot of experience with air quality monitors, I decided it was time to put together an article discussing my picks for the best air quality monitors. I will cover the best choices for each situation in this article, no matter your budget or whether you want a home-based or portable air quality monitor.
Before jumping into the article, though, I want to make two quick disclaimers: I’ve only recommended devices I have personal experience with. While there are many other great devices, I can’t sincerely recommend them without hands-on experience. As such, there may be some notable omissions from this article. However, I will update this article in the future when I spend some time with more devices!
Secondly, the air quality monitors in this article are consumer-grade < $500 monitors. There are many more accurate, more professional monitors out there. However, these are generally very pricey and out of reach for most of us. As such, I’ve chosen to focus on more affordable, widely available monitors.
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Information on this blog is for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information herein with other sources. Furthermore, this information is not intended to replace medical advice from professionals. This website assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information and information is subject to change without notice.
Do I Need an Air Quality Monitor?
If you’re already aware of why an air quality monitor is such an important device to have, feel free to skip this section and continue below. However, if you’re just being introduced to such monitors, you may wonder why you even need such a device.
When it comes to the impacts of air pollution, it’s important to differentiate between different pollutants. For example, fine and ultrafine particles such as PM2.5 and PM1 impact our health differently than volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Even carbon dioxide can have big health impacts!
So how does air pollution impact our health? Both outdoor and indoor air pollution can lead to various conditions, such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, allergic reactions, and more. It’s even been proven that poor air quality can lead to a decrease in life expectancy!
However, poor air quality is far more insidious. Ultrafine particles have been found to decrease cognitive performance, cause (or at least worsen) depression, and in the worst cases, potentially lead to suicide. Of course, these are the most severe impacts, and we aren’t likely to experience these outcomes.
What is more worrying and more applicable to most people reading this article is the short-term impact of air pollution. High concentrations of fine dust and carbon dioxide have decreased cognitive performance and cause drowsiness. On the other hand, VOCs can easily lead to headaches, nausea, and loss of coordination.
Whether outdoors or indoors, air pollution can impact you physically and mentally. Therefore, keeping track of pollutants and knowing what we are breathing at any given time is extremely beneficial. Although air quality monitors aren’t perfect, they are the best tools we currently have available to keep an eye on local air quality levels.
Features to Look For in an Air Quality Monitor
Trying to find the best air quality monitor can feel overwhelming. However, while there are many options, only a few likely have the exact features you’re looking for on such a monitor. Knowing what to look for makes choosing the perfect monitor significantly easier. Below is my list of the minor ‘nice to have’ features I look for, followed by the most important features.
Nice to have features:
- Updateable (with regular updates)
- Compact size
- Configurable alarm/threshold notifications
- Rechargeable battery
- Type-C USB connection
- Data sharing
- Data logging
- Data exporting
Types of Sensors
Pollution sensors on the uHoo air quality monitor
The first and most important consideration you’ll want to make when purchasing an air quality monitor is what types of sensors you need. Nearly every air quality monitor will have a PM2.5 sensor, but everything else will depend on the monitor in question.
So, how do you decide what sensors are essential? Well, I hate to say this, but it depends. If you are only interested in monitoring particulate pollution, you’ll want to look for a monitor with any combination of PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 sensors.
However, if you’re looking for a complete indoor air pollution monitor, you’ll want a tVOC sensor as tVOC pose a much bigger health threat indoors than out. A carbon dioxide sensor on an indoor air pollution monitor can also be invaluable!
If you feel like emergency alerts are essential, a carbon monoxide sensor is also a big help. Although I’ve never had to use a carbon monoxide sensor before, I appreciate having one included on air quality monitors as it feels reassuring to have.
Again, while it depends on your use case, here are my recommendations:
|Air Quality Monitor Type||Essential Sensors||Optional Sensors|
|Outdoor||PM2.5, PM10||PM1, NO2, O3|
|Indoor||PM2.5, tVOC||PM1, PM10, CO2, CO|
AQMD accuracy report for Atmotube Pro
It’s important to do your own research whenever you can. In the case of air quality monitors, this means ensuring the sensors in your device are accurate and trustworthy. Unfortunately, finding this information isn’t always easy, as many devices lack third-party testing.
So, how can you check whether the device you are interested in is accurate? Since it can be hard to find official specifications, the best thing to do is check reviews from unaffiliated websites. Some websites, such as Smart Air Filters, conduct tests on air pollution monitors, comparing them to reference monitors.
While Smart Air does sell many monitors, it’s a great resource and a certified B Corp. I’ve referenced its reviews and tests on many occasions, and I can confidently recommend checking its website for reviews (and accuracy tests) before purchasing any monitor.
It’s also important to check for official accuracy testing. While not every monitor has such testing or will advertise it, some air quality monitors, such as Atmotube Pro, have undergone testing by organisations such as South Coast AQMD. AQMD has also conducted tests on various other monitors, and I recommend checking its database before purchasing a monitor.
If you can’t find either of these, I recommend checking the spec sheet for the air quality monitor and looking for the individual sensor components used. Often, these will be from large sensor companies such as Senirion or Senseair. The accuracy of these components is often well-documented, and you should be able to find information on review sites and forums.
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of any air quality monitor is its accuracy. If a monitor isn’t accurate, it can’t give you insights into your local air quality. Generally, accuracy within the below brackets is expected in this price range:
|Sensor Type||Expected Accuracy|
|PM1, PM2.5, PM10||± 10-20%|
|CO2||± 5% (± 30 ppm AND 5%)|
|Relative Humidity||± 3%|
|Air Pressure||± 1 mBar|
If you’re looking for a portable air quality monitor, having a long-lasting battery is a top priority. While there are a lot of portable air quality monitors out there, many only have an eight to 24-hour battery life. This can make them very frustrating to use on the go as they must be charged daily.
Battery life is almost single-handily the reason I can recommend the Atmotube Pro so easily. While I prefer the app and usability of other portable devices, nothing comes close to the convenience of picking up the device every morning without worrying about battery life (provided you charge it once per week!).
Of course, battery life is far less important or irrelevant if you’re looking for a static air quality monitor. For example, if you want to place a monitor in your lounge, there’s no need to pay extra for a device with a battery.
Devices with short battery life, such as the Qingping Air Monitor Lite, can also be handy. Although the battery will only last eight hours, it’s handy to quickly check the air quality in other rooms without carrying around an adapter and USB cable. Of course, as a portable monitor, eight hours isn’t enough for me to warrant using it.
So, the question to ask yourself is this: what’s the purpose of the air quality monitor you are purchasing? Is it intended to be used in a home or office, or do you want to be able to take it out and about with you?
Qingping app (from the Qingping Air Monitor and Air Monitor Lite)
When deciding what air quality monitor to purchase, it’s essential to consider connectivity options. Are you content with a non-connected monitor? Or do you deem a monitor with a Bluetooth or WiFi connection essential? Furthermore, are you looking for a monitor with HomeKit, Alexa, or IFTTT integration? These are all things to consider when selecting the ideal monitor.
Every monitor on the list today has connectivity in some form, and once you spend over $80, you’ll find the vast majority of monitors offer a connection of some kind. For portable monitors, this is usually Bluetooth, and for indoor air quality monitors, it’s more often WiFi.
Most monitors will offer connectivity through the company apps. While this is useful, I prefer monitors with integration into some smart home systems. Since I use an iPhone, Homekit integration is a big deal for me as it allows me to automate many functions easily.
For example, turning my air purifier on automatically when the PM2.5 concentration exceeds my threshold is incredibly useful. The same goes for my dehumidifier and humidity. However, not everyone is interested in these features and in those cases, a standalone device or app-only connection might suffice.
Regardless of what kind of device you choose, you will want to ensure it can retain some data. It’s too easy to lose a Bluetooth or WiFi connection temporarily; in these cases, having a device that can retain some data is invaluable.
Indicators & Notifications
The Forensics Detectors CO2 Monitor is a great example of a monitor with good notifications.
An air quality monitor’s job is to inform you about the air you breathe. However, unless you constantly check the app or device’s screen, it’s hard to know exactly when the air you’re breathing is beginning to become dangerous.
For this reason, it’s important to check if an air quality monitor can indicate or notify you when pollutant concentrations become harmful. Depending on the monitor, this indication will vary – it may be a flashing light, a beep, or a notification on your phone.
At the end of the day, all that’s important is that your monitor or phone can notify you when necessary. This feature is even more important if your air quality monitor supports carbon monoxide monitoring.
Dual-beam NDIR CO2 sensor diagram. Source: Instrumentationtools.com
Over time, sensors tend to drift and lose accuracy. While this isn’t an issue in the short term (unless your device comes incorrectly calibrated), it can cause air quality monitors to show wildly incorrect measurements after a few months or years of usage.
Sensor drift impacts all sensors, but tVOC and CO2 sensors tend to be the most impacted by it. As such, it’s important to ensure the device you purchase features a recalibration method if the air quality monitor features either of these sensors.
Now, many manufacturers will advertise auto-calibration as a ‘feature’. However, it’s often detrimental to performance and can lead to incorrect readings over time. As such, you want to check for air quality monitors that allow you to manually calibrate their sensors.
Typically, calibrating a tVOC or CO2 sensor is a quick process involving taking your air quality monitor outside for a few minutes. This will allow the sensor to judge what clean air is and will allow the monitor to set a new baseline on which to base concentrations in the future.
Best Air Quality Monitors
There are many air quality monitors out there, and picking the best wasn’t easy. However, my general recommendations can be found in the table below. If you’re interested in reading why I made each suggestion and to who I recommend each air quality monitor, please read on!
|Air Quality Monitor||Portable||Sensors||Connectivity||Price|
|uHoo||No||PM2.5, Co2, NO2, CO, tVOC, temp, RH, air pressure||App, Alex, Assistant, IFTTT||$299|
|Qingping AM||No||PM2.5, Co2, tVOC, temp, RH||App Mi Home||$130|
|Qingping AM Lite||Somewhat||PM2.5, Co2, PM10, temp, RH||App, HomeKit, Mi Home||$90|
|Atmotube Pro||Yes||PM1, PM2.5, PM10, tVOC, temp, RH, air pressure||App||$249|
Best All-Round Air Quality Monitor
Pollution Sensors: PM2.5, tVOC, Co2, NO2, CO, O3
Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
Connectivity: uHoo app, Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and more
Other Sensors: Relative humidity, temperature, air pressure
Connection Type: Micro USB
If money isn’t an issue, the uHoo air quality monitor is the best all-round air quality monitor and one that I can easily recommend. I’ve used my uHoo for over two years, and it’s still my go-to indoor air quality monitor. Why? Because it provides a wealth of information.
I do have to make a disclaimer here. While I love the uHoo air quality monitor, uHoo recently launched a paid subscription service called uHoo Premium. I haven’t yet tried this feature because while it looks to provide an even greater wealth of information, I can’t justify $10 per month when the app already provides all the data I need. I wanted to mention this new service because I’m not a fan of this new direction. Just keep in mind the subscription is not essential!
So, what makes uHoo such a solid option? Its extensive range of sensors! On uHoo, you will find no less than nine individual sensors which monitor temperature, humidity, air pressure, carbon dioxide, TVOC, PM2.5, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. While you are paying a steeper price, there are very few monitors with such an extensive array of sensors.
Since there is so much data the uHoo can provide, the manufacturers decided to allow users to interact with the device only through an accompanying app or smart home integration. Considering the vast amount of information a relatively small screen would have to convey, I agree with this decision.
Unfortunately, the smart home integration of uHoo is not great. While it supports Google Assistant, Alexa, and IFTTT, the integration feels half-hearted, and I found that sometimes I wouldn’t get a response. This was frustrating and meant I resorted to using the app and forgetting these integrations.
While the app is slow, I find it useable as it’s straightforward and easy to use. Furthermore, the app does a good job of graphing indoor air quality and showing trends over time. The graphs are easily clear and convey all the essential information. While I wish the app could be sped up, this isn’t a dealbreaker for me.
Regarding the sensors, there is nothing obviously missing from uHoo. Having particulate, VOC and CO2 sensors means this device covers all bases. However, uHoo goes a step further by being one of the only indoor air quality monitors on this list to monitor carbon monoxide and ozone!
The best part about this device is the app is highly customizable. You can set thresholds for the device to send notifications (for me, I turned notifications off, except in the case of carbon monoxide) which is extremely handy!
If you’re looking for an all-in-one air quality monitor, uHoo is your best bet. While it is pricey, cheaper alternatives generally don’t share the same range of sensors and instead will remove the CO, ozone, and NO2 sensors. Therefore, while the price is steep, I could justify it for these additional features.
Is it flawless? No. I would love to see an update to USB Type-C, a faster app, and an update to 5ghz WiFi. However, even with these flaws, I see the uHoo as an extremely solid indoor air quality monitor and one you might want to check out.
Best Desk-Based Air Quality Monitor
Pollution Sensors: PM2.5, tVOC, Co2
Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
Connectivity: Qingping+ App, Mi Home
Other Sensors: Relative humidity, temperature
Connection Type: USB Type-C
If you’re looking for an air quality monitor perfectly suited for your desk, bookshelf, or windowsill, then the Qingping Air Monitor is the device you’ll want to check out. Not only does it have connectivity via the Qingping+ app, but it also has a high-quality (albeit small) screen detailing your current air quality.
Inside the Qingping Air Monitor, you’ll find carbon dioxide, PM2.5, tVOC, temperature and relative humidity sensors. While I would love to see a PM10 sensor added (which is coincidentally included in the smaller, more affordable Qingping Air Monitor Lite), the Qingping Air Monitor has a solid range of sensors.
The device has a battery and USB Type-C charging port alongside these sensors. Unfortunately, the device’s battery life is quite minimal, at around seven hours, meaning you’ll want to keep it plugged in the vast majority of the time. Thankfully, the connection is the modern Type-C.
With this short battery life (and the rather inconvenient shape for pocket/backpack carrying), the Qingping Air Monitor is clearly meant to be a desk-bound monitor, and I would not recommend using this monitor on the go. With that said, it’s nice to see a battery included, as the monitor can be moved around a home or office without powering off.
Thankfully, as a static monitor, the Qingping product excels. Surprisingly for such an affordable device, the Qingping Air Monitor has a high-quality, high-resolution touch screen. Not only does it look great, but the screen is very responsive – something which impressed me greatly!
Depending on how you’ve set your device up, the home screen will provide an overview of the local air quality with all readings provided. While the screen can feel cluttered at times due to the overwhelming amount of information, there is no denying that the device provides detailed insights into your indoor air quality.
If you prefer to interact with the Qingping Air Monitor via your smartphone, you can do so via the Qingping+ app. The app is fluid and fast, making it one of the best air quality monitor apps I’ve tried to date. The app provides graphs for each sensor and allows the user to identify trends in their indoor air quality.
Whether you use the device by itself or with the connected app, the Qingping Air Monitor is a solid, all-around air quality monitor. However, what makes it so compelling is its very reasonable price which makes many more expensive monitors much less tempting.
Best Small Air Quality Monitor
Pollution Sensors: PM2.5, PM10, Co2
Battery Life: Up to 8 hours (can be expanded if sleeping)
Connectivity: Qingping+ App, Mi Home, Apple HomeKit
Other Sensors: Relative humidity, temperature
Connection Type: USB Type-C
If you want an air quality monitor that takes up almost no room in your home, you’ll want to check out the Qingping Air Monitor’s smaller sibling – the Qingping Air Monitor Lite. While the names are almost the same, these devices differ so greatly that they feel like they are from different companies! If I’m honest, the only similarities between the devices are their great build qualities and surprisingly affordable prices.
The Qingping Air Monitor Lite is a small cube of 2.5 x 1.8 x 2.2 inches. In other words, it’s a very small device that can easily slide into your backpack or pocket (although it isn’t a great portable monitor! More on that soon). With such a compact size, this is the best air quality monitor if you want something unobtrusive.
The Qingping Air Monitor Lite houses a PM2.5, PM10, CO2, relative humidity and temperature sensor. While the device lacks a tVOC sensor, I can forgive this at the very affordable price. However, if you deem a tVOC sensor essential, you’ll want to move to the Qingping Air Monitor or another indoor air quality monitor.
While this air quality monitor does have a screen, the screen is quite small and only displays one measurement at a time. To get a full overview of your indoor air quality, you’ll need to use the touch bar on top of the device to scroll through every reading. While this isn’t a big deal, it isn’t as convenient as devices with larger screens which are capable of displaying every reading at a glance.
Instead of using the screen, I recommend using the Qingping+ app or HomeKit instead. The Qingping+ app is a fast and fluid app that provides graphs for each pollutant. This is fantastic if you want to identify trends in your indoor air quality. If you prefer to integrate the monitor into your smart home, you can do so with HomeKit or Mi Home.
Unfortunately, the smart home integration feels half-hearted – at least on HomeKit. The functions are limited, and I would highly recommend using the Qingping+ app instead, as it offers a far more detailed view of your indoor air quality and provides a range of settings that can’t be found on the device itself.
The Qingping Air Monitor Lite is powered by a USB Type-C cable which connects to the back of the device. While a battery is built into the device, the battery life is minimal, at around eight hours. Furthermore, the device puts itself to sleep after a few minutes, making it a poor choice as a portable air quality monitor.
That said, I appreciate the device having a few hours of battery. If the power goes out temporarily, the device will stay on and not need to be reset when the power returns. On top of this, you can temporarily move the device to another room for air quality testing without needing a cable and power socket.
If you’re looking for a small air quality monitor, the Qingping Air Monitor Lite is a great choice. With great connectivity, this device is also a great choice if you want to hide it and access data by the app alone.
Best Portable Air Quality Monitor
Pollution Sensors: PM1, PM2.5, PM10, Co2
Battery Life: Up to one week
Connectivity: Atmotube app
Other Sensors: Relative humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure
Connection Type: USB Type-C
Although I’ve reviewed a range of portable air quality monitors, including the Flow 2 and Breathe Smart 2, I have no doubt about which portable air quality monitor I would recommend. The device I would so easily recommend is the Atmotube Pro.
Why do I recommend this over the other two? Well, in my Flow 2 vs Atmotube Pro comparison, it largely came down to one key factor – battery life. The Flow 2 needs to be charged daily, but the Atmotube can go for a week. On top of this, this portable air quality monitor offers a far better selection of sensors than the Breathe Smart 2 and Flow 2.
For this reason, it’s easy to say the Atmotube Pro is a well-rounded air quality monitor with all the basics and more. It provides connectivity via an iOS or Android app, has great battery life, and has a great variety of sensors to keep you up to date on your local air quality.
Atmotube Pro will keep track of PM1, PM2.5, PM10, tVOC, atmospheric pressure, humidity, temperature and altitude. Compared to the current portable air quality monitor alternatives, nothing offers the same fantastic range of sensors as this device from Atmo.
Furthermore, in third-party testing, the particulate matter sensors have proven accurate enough to be trusted. While they aren’t totally accurate compared to reference monitors, they have a margin of error of 10%, meaning you can trust the readings your Atmotube is providing you.
Besides the battery life, the connectivity and included carabiner make the Atmotube Pro the perfect portable air quality monitor. While the device’s build doesn’t feel particularly high quality (mostly plastic, with only the carabiner being metal), it feels durable enough to join you on various journeys. Of course, you’ll need to be careful around water as the Atmotube is not waterproof or even resistant.
The Atmotube Pro is not perfect, and I’m not a big fan of the app. When opening the app, you’ll need to wait a few seconds to sync data from your device, and if you haven’t opened the app in a while, this process can take a while. On top of this, the UI could be vastly improved, as while graphs are currently provided, they can be confusing.
However, despite these flaws, I still use the Atmotube Pro as my portable air quality monitor. It doesn’t suffer from poor battery life like devices such as the Flow 2, and the range of sensors makes it more useful than devices such as the Breathe Smart 2.
While the Atmotube Pro isn’t cheap, it has a competitive price considering the technology packed within. It’s more affordable than many less-equipped monitors (including many desk-based and wall-mounted air quality monitors) and has no major downsides.
Overall, the only addition I would like to see on the Atmotube Pro is a carbon dioxide sensor. Currently, I still need to rely on a portable carbon dioxide monitor such as the Aranet4 for this purpose. If Atmo could include a carbon dioxide sensor, it would truly be the only portable device I need!
Air Quality Monitor FAQ
What Is the Best Air Quality Monitor?
For the most complete air quality monitoring, I recommend the uHoo. For an affordable option, the Qingping Air Monitor or Air Monitor Lite. Finally, for a portable option, I recommend the Atmotube Pro.
How to Monitor Indoor Air Quality
The only way to accurately monitor indoor or outdoor air quality is to have an air quality monitor.
Why Is It Important to Monitor Indoor Air Quality?
Air quality has been found to impact humans greatly – both when it comes to physical health and mental health. If you can monitor indoor air quality, it’s possible to take control of your environment and improve your health.
How Much Does an Indoor Air Quality Monitor Cost?
For a high-quality air quality monitor, you will need to spend at least $80. There are many options if you have a budget of around $250.