Over the past few months, I’ve reviewed a range of carbon dioxide monitors. While many of them have been fantastic, one problem was shared across the board – they’re expensive.
While the NDIR technology required to monitor carbon dioxide accurately isn’t cheap, this steep barrier of entry must be removed. Especially now, since carbon dioxide has been found to act as a proxy for COVID-19 transmission risk, these monitors need to be as accessible as possible.
One product has taken this goal to heart. The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector (also called the Vitalight CO2 Monitor) is an affordable carbon dioxide monitor that boasts a great price with no frills. It has one job, and one job only – to monitor carbon dioxide.
Like me, you may know of this product through Donatemask.ca (which is a fantastic charity organisation you should check out if you’re in Canada). Since this monitor is an off-the-shelf product, you may find it rebranded by various companies and organisations. I only discovered it through my Twitter when I heard people showing off their Donatemask.ca branded devices!
Either way, both of these products are the same. Manufactured by Guangdong Bioall Medical Technology Co., the internals of each Mini CO2 Detector are the same, meaning you will get the same performance and experience regardless of the branding.
Before getting started, I want to welcome everyone reading this to comment and share your experiences. If you own a Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector, what are your thoughts on the product? Would you recommend it? Alternatively, if you have any questions or comments for me (and other readers), please feel free to share them here!
With that said, it’s time to take a look at the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector. Can a cheap device be as accurate as more pricey monitors such as the Qingping Air Monitor and the Aranet4? Let’s take a look!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my affiliate disclaimer. I was NOT sent a product for review, this product was purchased by myself. All opinions expressed in this post are my honest thoughts. I only recommend products that I believe in.
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. Devices mentioned on this website are not medical devices and do not guarantee protection.
Regarding carbon dioxide sensors, non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) is the gold standard. These sensors are currently the most accurate on the market (although some products use dual-beam NDIR, which has less sensor drift in the short term) and are what you want to look for in any CO2 monitor you’re considering purchasing.
The good news is that the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector uses an NDIR sensor from Memsfrontier (model MEMSF MTP40-F). Although this brand doesn’t carry the same reputation for NDIR as companies such as Sensirion and Senseair, Memsfrontier likely produces cheaper NDIR sensors allowing the Vitalight to be the only NDIR-equipped device in its price range.
The manufacturer’s specifications state the sensor has an accuracy of ±50ppm + 5% of the reading. This means that at 1000ppm, the device’s accuracy as per the manufacturer’s specifications would be 1000ppm ±100 (50 + 5% of 1000 = 100). While this margin is larger than that of the Aranet4 and other, pricier alternatives (which typically sit at ±30-70ppm), I’ve found the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector to perform well in my accuracy tests.
While the manufacturer’s specifications state the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector takes a reading every two seconds, this is only a partial truth. In fact, the NDIR sensor is only taking a reading every 30-120 seconds. The very minor 1ppm or 2ppm adjustments you see on the screen are interpolations trending in the direction of previous readings.
Therefore, you’ll want to allow the monitor a couple of minutes after moving it to take an accurate reading. While I’ve found the interpolated readings to be quite accurate (they definitely trend in the right direction 95% of the time), they are just estimates of the actual readings. If you want to learn more about these interpolations, please refer to Donatemask.ca’s FAQ.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector uses auto-calibration to combat sensor drift. However, this is not a feature and is instead somewhat detrimental to the performance of the Vitalight. I believe it is because of this ‘feature’ that many other users found the device inaccurate.
When initially turned on, the device will perform an auto-calibration within 24 hours as per the manufacturer’s specifications. After the initial 24-hour period, the device will auto-calibrate itself every seven days.
Now, why is auto-calibration an issue? Well, when calibrating the device, the Vitalight looks at data over the previous seven-day period. The device then assumes the lowest carbon dioxide PPM reading over that period is the baseline. That is to say, the device takes the lowest reading from the past seven days and assumes it is 400ppm.
If the device is taken outside every seven days (for at least a couple of hours), this auto-calibration method should ensure the device stays accurate. However, it will lose accuracy if the device is constantly inside and never sees ambient carbon dioxide concentrations.
For example, if the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector always stays in a bedroom, and that bedroom never sees concentrations below 600ppm, the Vitalight will take that 600ppm value and replace the 400ppm baseline with it. This will skew all future readings and render the device inaccurate.
To try and minimise potential issues caused by auto-calibration, the manufacturer has implemented software to force the feature to recall at least three time periods. This means the device will average the lowest reading from at least the three lowest readings.
Of course, this isn’t an infallible method, and a single inaccurate auto-calibration can skew the average and therefore draw the baseline above 400ppm. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how many readings are used if the device is always inside – the average will be above 400ppm.
Unfortunately, this frustrating ‘feature’ can’t be disabled. The device WILL auto-calibrate itself, and there’s nothing we can do to avoid this. Luckily, it’s not the end of the world you will just need to ensure you take the device outside regularly enough for it to gather a baseline concentration.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector also features a manual calibration feature. This allows the user to manually set a baseline when they are outside and (I believe) will reset the auto-calibration feature for seven days. However, it’s important to remember that the averaging feature used for auto-calibration can also impact manual calibrations. Therefore, you may need to manually calibrate the device a few times to set an accurate baseline.
As you can see, it’s easy for the device to lose its accuracy if you are unaware of this active calibration function behind the scenes. I won’t lie – it’s frustrating and would have been implemented by the manufacturer to counter sensor drift. However, if you know how the device works, it’s possible to minimise the impact of auto-calibration.
Manual calibration on the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is an easy process. If you prefer to watch a video guide on calibrating the device, check out this video by Andrew Young. If you prefer to read through the instructions, the guide from the manual is included above.
So, when will you want to calibrate the device manually? Well, there’s no easy answer to this, unfortunately. If you’re regularly taking the monitor outside, you probably won’t need to worry about manually calibrating the device. I used it for a couple of weeks (regularly taking it outside) and never worried about manually calibrating the device until I ran tests with it. It remained accurate throughout, and for people regularly taking the device outside, you likely won’t need to worry about manual calibrations.
On the other hand, if you don’t regularly take the device outside, or if it’s providing readings that are seemingly too high, it’s time to calibrate the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector manually. If you have a device that’s reading 400ppm anywhere but outside, it’s likely auto-calibrated itself to a higher baseline and is reading higher than it should.
You’ll want to ensure you are outdoors when performing the manual calibration. Since you’re setting a new baseline value for the device, you want it to be calibrated in an area with as close to ambient CO2 levels as possible. Furthermore, during the 200-second countdown, you’ll want to stand at least a few metres away from the device, so your exhaled carbon dioxide doesn’t interfere with the calibration process.
Since the auto-calibration averaging can impact manual calibrations, you may want to calibrate the device a few times. While I am unsure how many data points the device averages from, it’s at least three. Therefore, it may be worth recalibrating the device three times to get an accurate average.
Now that we’ve covered auto-calibration, let’s discuss how accurate the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is when properly calibrated. For this section, I ran my own tests comparing the Vitalight device to the Aranet4 (which is currently the most popular consumer-focused CO2 monitor). Before diving into the tests, I need to make a few disclaimers.
For precise accuracy testing, a fully-equipped lab is needed. I do not have access to such a location or the professional-grade equipment needed to discuss the accuracy of the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector with certainty. That said, I’ve done my best to create an accurate testing setup.
For the tests, I placed the monitors in a box within a room. This box had both an intake and an exhaust fan to ensure there were minimal physical anomalies in the carbon dioxide concentrations – in a typical room, devices can read differently due to eddies and microplumes. Furthermore, this also ensures good mixing of the air passing through the box. Finally, all devices were placed so their sensors were at the same height to account for the heavy weight of the gas.
The box was then placed on my desk as I worked. For the first test, I ensured there was no ventilation in the room; therefore, a reasonably linear increase in carbon dioxide concentration is expected. With that expectation in mind, let’s take a look at the results!
The first graph shows an hour of data from the Aranet4 and Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector. As you can see, over an hour of working, the carbon dioxide concentration in my room increased from 968 (Vitalight) and 980 (Aranet4) to 1968 (Aranet4) and 1985 (Vitalight). Both devices show an almost linear increase in concentration, but the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector did show a bit more variability in readings.
Overall, however, both devices provided very similar readings. I would even argue that this minimal difference is irrelevant in usage – at 8:15, where the greatest difference between the devices occurred, the readings were 1355 compared to 1402. Both of these levels would warrant the same response – to open windows and increase ventilation as soon as possible. Therefore, I would argue that these slight deviations between the monitors aren’t significant on a consumer-focused device.
In the first comparison, the CO2 concentrations were relatively high, and we’ve seen that the Vitalight provides accurate readings over 1000ppm. However, how about at lower concentrations? For the second graph, I placed my test setup in a well-ventilated room and measured the readings from both devices every five minutes (as soon as the Aranet4 had been updated).
Both devices indicated the same trends and provided relatively similar readings. With that said, I did have one interesting finding with the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector – when concentrations dropped below around 500ppm (according to the Aranet4), the Vitalight provided very different readings. The graph above shows one such difference at 12:10; however, this was a consistent trend in my experience using the device.
Where the Aranet4 might read 500ppm, the Vitalight could read anywhere from 400ppm (its minimum value) to 450ppm. Despite recalibrating the device multiple times, the readings under 500ppm deviated significantly from the Aranet4.
Luckily, at these concentrations, the device’s accuracy isn’t particularly important. Anything under 800ppm isn’t worth worrying about; therefore, these deviations at < 500ppm aren’t important. However, I want to note that the results were interesting compared to the almost identical readings between the monitors above 1000ppm.
So, is the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector accurate? Yes! Provided the device is calibrated correctly, it provides similar readings to far more expensive carbon dioxide monitors. I trust the readings provided by the Vitalight device, and its accuracy has surprised and impressed me!
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector design is nothing to write about. It’s simple, and there’s nothing that stands out about the device. At the same time, however, it comes with some nice advantages over other portable CO2 monitors, such as the Aranet4.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is intended to be used as a portable carbon dioxide monitor. From the ground up, the device is designed to be taken with you wherever you go. This can be seen in the remarkably light weight of the monitor (78 grams) and the heavy-duty carabiner, which is attached to the top of the device.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector also has a small form factor, and placed next to any modern smartphone, it looks small by comparison. This means the Mini CO2 Detector is easily pocketable – even more so than the Aranet4 when you remove the carabiner.
With that said, I also feel like I need to be more careful with the Vitalight monitor. The build quality is lower than the Aranet (it feels like it is made from cheap plastic), and there is far more venting on the device. If stored in a pocket, I feel like sand, dirt, or other small particles will enter the device and potentially cause future issues.
Speaking of these vents, a USB Type-C charging port can be found on the right-hand side of the product, just underneath the vent. While I am thrilled to see that a Type-C port is used as opposed to a micro-USB port, there are some interesting caveats with this device.
If you’ve read donatemask.ca’s documentation, you’ll see they heavily emphasise that you must use the included charging cable to charge the device. Other cables won’t work, and this can lead customers to believe their Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is broken.
I didn’t find this to be accurate, however. I haven’t opened the included Type-C cable and instead have been using other cables I have around the house (I don’t need yet another cable added to the cable clutter!). With most of the cables I tried, the device charged fine. Not all cables worked (notably, Type-C to Type-C cables didn’t seem to work, only standard USB to Type-C), but I found a few that worked.
If you are having issues with charging the device, it’s likely due to the cables used. While I didn’t run into any issues, I want to point them out to anyone who may run into issues with charging the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector.
Back to the design! You’ll find everything needed to use the device on the front panel. A small screen is located at the top of the device, and the branding is underneath. In my case, the branding is ‘Vitalight’, but this will differ depending on the vendor you are purchasing from. Finally, near the bottom of the device is a power button that controls all of the device’s functions:
- Long press (three seconds): turns the device on or off
- Long press (ten seconds): begins the manual calibration process
- Short press: turns the display on
- Short double press: Disable sound (turn on again with a short press while the screen is on)
As you can see, the power button controls every function of the device as it is the only button on it. You can turn the device on and off, change the sound alerts, and recalibrate the carbon dioxide sensor from this button. Very simple, but it does everything it needs to.
The screen very simply shows the CO2 concentration in ppm, the battery reading, and the ‘hazard level’ of the CO2 concentration on a colour scale of green to red. The screen (and device overall) are straightforward, but they do what they need to.
Overall, the design of the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is minimal, which is a strength of the device. This is a great device to look into if you are looking for a CO2 monitor that simply gives you the carbon dioxide concentration at any given time. It’s super portable and is the perfect attachment for your backpack!
Functionality is the aspect in which the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector either excels or underperforms, depending on your needs. If you’re looking for a monitor that only provides insights into the carbon dioxide concentration at any given time, the Vitalight excels. However, if you’re looking for anything more, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Monitors such as the Aranet4 can connect via Bluetooth or WiFi to your phone and store data there. This is excellent for anyone who wants to dive deeper into analysing carbon dioxide concentrations and identify trends within different environments and times. This isn’t unique to Aranet4, either. Many carbon dioxide monitors and indoor air pollution monitors provide extra functionality via an application.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector offers none of this functionality. There is no ability to export data in any format and no option to see previous data on the device itself. At this price point, I don’t see this as an issue. However, it is something to be aware of when purchasing a Vitalight monitor.
On the other hand, the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is an excellent device for monitoring live concentrations of carbon dioxide. As discussed previously, the device is accurate and performs very similarly to other, more expensive carbon dioxide monitors on the market. There’s no fluff, and the device simply works.
Since you’ll be relying on the device’s screen, the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector must be visible. In itself, this doesn’t seem like a big issue. However, it does make the device a bit less convenient to use than the Aranet4. For example, I often carry my Aranet4 in my pocket or backpack and check the carbon dioxide concentrations via the app.
While you won’t get the most accurate readings with the device stowed away, this allows you to quickly and inconspicuously check the carbon dioxide levels – this can come in very handy at times. On the other hand, you will need to consistently check the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector to see the current carbon dioxide concentration. While this is usually no big deal, there are times when I prefer to keep my carbon dioxide monitor hidden as it does attract both questions and attention.
Secondly, since there is no option to store data, you will need to check the monitor regularly to see changes in CO2 levels. With devices that store data, it’s easy to see overall trends in carbon dioxide levels. Does the carbon dioxide concentration typically increase at night? How long do the windows need to be open to see carbon dioxide concentrations return to < 800ppm?
These trends can easily be identified with other monitors since they store and graph data on an app. Further, they allow users to export data in a spreadsheet to be further analysed. While, in theory, the Vitalight can also identify these trends, it’s a more arduous process as you will need to check the monitor consistently. For this reason, you also can’t see trends while sleeping or physically away from the monitor.
Is this a deal breaker? It depends on your use case. If you’re happy using the device within these limitations, I believe the Vitalight is a great monitor for the price. While other devices on the market undeniably offer more functionality, Vitalight is a solid budget offering.
The battery life on the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is acceptable but not great. On average, each charge will last you around 8 hours – enough for a work day or while out and about, but not enough for a full day of wear. This is another gripe I have. My personal opinion with wearables – whether it be a smartwatch, a smart mask, or a backpack carbon dioxide monitor – is that 24 hours of battery life should be the minimum.
While I understand that the device is designed to be affordable and small, I wish the device could have featured a bigger battery. I would happily pay $10 more for a slightly larger device that can last 24 hours – even 12 hours would be okay, as that would last not only through school/work hours but also for the trip to and from school or work.
Another issue I have with the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is the screen. While it works fine indoors, it’s simply not bright enough to be seen on a sunny day or in bright areas. I would consider this a significant issue, but since we are more worried about CO2 concentrations indoors, it’s something I consider minor. Most of the situations in which it’s too bright to see the screen are situations where you don’t need to keep an eye on the CO2 level anyway.
Overall, the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector provides the essential functionality of a carbon dioxide monitor. However, it offers nothing more – there’s no option for in-depth analysis, no settings to change the concentrations that activate the audible warning bell, and no way to export data. The battery life is also far from great, and I personally would far prefer to pay $10 more for a device with a significantly larger battery.
In the end, you need to ask yourself: Do I need the app functionality of the Aranet4? If not, the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is a great option. If you see the extra functions (and battery life) as being a significant benefit, you’ll want to shell out extra for a more premium monitor.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is an affordable carbon dioxide monitor which provides a good alternative to other options on the market – you could purchase five Vitalight Mini CO2 Detectors in place of a single Aranet4 at current pricing. This is a vast price difference, and since a CO2 monitor is not necessary for most people, devices such as the Aranet4 aren’t accessible to many.
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector has done a fantastic job in this respect. It’s likely the only NDIR device on the market in this price range, and I’ve had no issues with it during the past couple of weeks. While it does lack more advanced functionality, this is something I can overlook at this price point.
What I find harder to overlook is the major issue with battery life. I imagine the eight-hour battery life could easily be expanded to at least 24 hours or perhaps even three or four days for only a small increase in price. If not 24 hours, even a 12-hour battery would be an invaluable improvement.
Of course, since this is the only NDIR-equipped device in this price range (that I know of), the short battery life isn’t a deal-breaker. While I find it inconvenient needing the recharge the device so frequently, I didn’t find it to ruin my experience with the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector.
Before wrapping up this review, there are a few caveats I need to mention. Firstly, auto-calibration is a frustrating feature that can’t be disabled. Remember to regularly take your device outside or manually calibrate it every week or so. Furthermore, manual calibration is in order if the readings on the device aren’t making much sense – if they are seemingly too high or low.
Secondly, I read hundreds of other reviews for the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector while writing this review. Most importantly, I focused on negative reviews to see the potential downsides of the device. The vast majority of negative reviews were based on the accuracy of the product, and I believe this is because most people are unaware of the auto-calibration ‘feature’. However, there were some more worrying reviews too.
Some users reported the batteries suddenly dying, the screen malfunctioning, and other issues which rendered the device unusable. I have not experienced any of these issues, and the device still has an overall positive rating (3.8/5 on Amazon). As such, I feel I can still recommend this CO2 monitor. With that said, there do seem to be some manufacturing issues, and if you’ve tried the device yourself, I would love to hear about your experiences. Has the device worked well, or has it run into issues?
If you’re in the market for a carbon dioxide monitor but find devices such as the Aranet4 too pricey, the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is a good choice. It has many limitations, and you certainly won’t get the feature set of more expensive monitors. However, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, it’s a monitor that should be on your radar.
Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector FAQ
Is the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector Accurate?
Yes. From my findings, the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector provided similar readings to the Aranet4 and other, more pricey monitors. However, the device must be regularly calibrated to maintain accuracy.
Where Can I Buy the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector?
How Does the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector Compare to the Aranet4?
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is slightly less accurate than the Aranet4 but provides surprisingly close competition in this respect. Where it lacks is in the feature set of the Aranet4. There is no companion app, no ability to export data, no humidity and temperature monitoring, and more.
Does the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector Auto-Calibrate?
Yes. Unfortunately, Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector regularly auto-calibrates.
How Long Is the Battery Life on the Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector?
The battery life is around eight hours.
Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector
The Vitalight Mini CO2 Detector is an affordable carbon dioxide monitor which comes at a significantly lower price than other options. It offers accurate carbon dioxide readings, but suffers from poor battery life. However, it's affordable price tag makes it a popular carbon dioxide monitor.
Product Brand: Vitalight
- Straightforward to use
- Accurate CO2 sensor
- Super portable
- USB Type-C charging
- Included Carabiner
- Allows for manual calibration
- Poor battery life
- Auto-calibration can make the device inaccurate
- No companion app
- Low screen brightness
- No ability to export data