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Published Sep 22, 2023 12:34 PM
Air quality monitors are rising in popularity, and for good reason. These days, our outdoor air is increasingly filled with wildfire smoke, car exhaust, and other dangerous pollutants. A good air quality monitor can tell you exactly what you’re breathing—and help you make real-time adjustments to improve freshness and take control of symptoms related to unhealthy air.
According to a recent report on air quality monitors from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these devices “have saved countless lives and should be present in every home.” The report also recommends monitors for schools, offices, and other buildings. But how do you choose which air quality monitor to install in your home or office? Are some more accurate or more effective than others? With these questions in mind, we tested some of the most popular models from top manufacturers. These are our top picks for the best air quality monitors of 2023.
How We Picked the Best Air Quality Monitors
Air quality monitors vary widely in portability, price, and user interface, as well as in the types of air factors they measure. To determine the best air quality monitors for indoor use, we installed a number of different devices in both home and office settings. We then compared measurements, apps, and graphs over the following days to determine consistency and accuracy.
In the end, we narrowed down our choices based on their technical specs, features, and general ease of use. After carefully comparing each product, we nominated these six devices as the best air quality monitors currently available.
Best Air Quality Monitors: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: AirThings View Plus
- Sensors: CO2, VOCs, PM, radon, temperature, humidity, pressure, weather
- Battery Life: 2 years (or plug-in)
- Display Size: 2.9 inches
- Warranty: 5 years
- Clean interface
- Compatible with app
- Can be placed on a surface or wall mounted
- Good balance of size, readability, and features
- Comes with plug-in and battery options
- More expensive than some monitors
- Small interface isn’t always the easiest to read
With reliable readings, a clean interface, and a wide range of sensors, the AirThings View Plus provided the best balance of readability and features of any monitor we tested. Both the device and the app are easy to set up. The device displays frequent readings of your preferred air quality factors, and a quick wave of the hand triggers a summary assessment. If your air quality is good, for example, the device will show a smiley face with the word “good.” If it’s bad, you’ll receive an appropriate warning. The motion-sensing trigger is unique, and a great way to get peace of mind in just a fraction of a second.
The View Plus app provides all the graphs you’d expect on an air quality monitor, and they’re color-coded and easy to interpret. We loved that the app has a variety of “focus” settings, letting you prioritize measurements that might affect your productivity, asthma symptoms, or headaches. The device’s display is customizable, and the matte screen is both easy on the eyes and helps save battery life. It can last for two years without needing a top-up.
While the View Plus was a little pricier than other models we tested, we found the accurate readings, range of sensors, and great battery life worth the higher price tag.
Best Budget: Temtop M10 Air Quality Tester
- Sensors: VOCs, formaldehyde, PM
- Battery Life: 6 hours (or plug-in)
- Display Size: 3.2 inches
- Warranty: 1 year
- Clean, easy-to-read display
- Very accurate
- Small portable design
- Color-coded safety indicator
- Limited number of sensors and features
- No app or Wi-Fi connectivity
The Temtop M10 is intuitive to use and easy to set up. While it’s one of the simpler models we tested, it’s also one of the most reliable. It detects particulate matter down to 2.5 micrometers, a size category that includes wildfire smoke, mold spores, and other particulates considered dangerous to human health. It has a distinct sensor for HCHO (formaldehyde), which is one of the better-known VOCs and a known carcinogen.
Each of the M10’s sensors is rated to last for at least three years (though there’s only a one-year warranty). But the thing we loved most—aside from the price tag—was the device’s top-notch readability. The display is crisp, clean, and easy to read. A color-coded LED indicator shines green for good quality air and red when there’s a potential health issue.
Best Battery Life: SAF Aranet 4 Home
Best Battery Life
- Sensors: CO2, temperature, humidity, pressure
- Battery Life: Up to 10 years
- Display Size: 1.5 inches
- Warranty: 2 years
- Portable and lightweight
- Best battery life of all the ones we tested
- Good accuracy
- Can place on a surface or mount on a wall
- Tiny display size may be difficult to read
- No plug-in option
- Expensive for what it is
When it comes to indoor CO2 monitoring, the SAF Aranet 4 is one of the most practical devices out there. It’s simple, lightweight, and wall-mountable, with batteries that can apparently last for up to a decade depending on the frequency of your readings. The device is easy to connect to its mobile app, which lets you view graphs of your air quality over the last 90 days.
It’s also one of the most accurate devices we tested and has a simple lightweight interface we were able to navigate with ease. In terms of downsides, however, some testers found the tiny screen difficult to read and wished for a colored light rather than the color-coded sticker indicator. The device displays a black bar over the corresponding sticker color, which is a little clunky. The device is also limited to just a few sensors. While its carbon dioxide sensor is consistent and reliable, we would have preferred at least a PM sensor especially given the higher price point.
Best Portable: Temtop M2000 2nd
- Sensors: CO2, PM, formaldehyde, temperature, humidity
- Battery Life: Up to 8 hrs
- Display Size: 2.5 inches
- Warranty: 1 year
- Handheld and portable
- Good accuracy
- Multiple, easy-to-read display screens
- Durable design
- Exportable data
- Relatively heavy for a portable model
- No mobile app
The Temtop M2000 is a beefy, industrial-quality air monitor that’s one of the most accurate low-cost options on the market. It’s also durable, easy to use, and equipped with an alarm, making it one of our favorites for people who need reliable air quality alerts in a range of settings. While there’s no app, the device itself shows graphs of air quality data over time and has plenty of room for data storage. It’s a fully featured standalone device.
During testing, we loved that it measures both PM2.5 and PM10—two different categories of particulate matter that each have different health impacts. The device is also equipped with a top-of-the-line infrared CO2 sensor as well as a formaldehyde sensor. The temperature and humidity measurements make the M2000 useful for indoor air testing as well as outdoor use. The biggest downside? At 2 pounds, it’s pretty darn heavy to carry around.
Best for Home: IQAir AirVisual Pro Indoor Sensor
Best for Home
- Sensors: CO2, PM, temperature, humidity, pressure, weather
- Battery Life: 4 hours (or plug-in)
- Display Size: 1.2 inches
- Warranty: 1 year
- Large colorful display
- Easy-to-read interface
- Real-time health tips
- Indoor-outdoor air quality comparison
- Can’t be wall mounted
- Shorter battery life than other models
- One of the most expensive models we tested
Of all the models we tested, the IQAir AirVisual Pro was by far the best air quality monitor for consistent indoor and at-home use. The View Plus not only shows graphs of CO2, particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, and PM10), and other pollutants on its device display, it also provides pollen index measurements and health recommendations on its corresponding mobile app.
Our testers really liked that the device shows a side-by-side comparison between indoor and outdoor air quality, which helped us make decisions about what kinds of recreation were safe on any given day. We found the color-coded interface and smiley-face indicators made the display easy to read at a glance. While we think the app’s design is a little outdated, it still gave us what we needed to know to make smart decisions about our health given the current air quality. Overall, this is a powerful tabletop monitor well equipped to measure complex air quality factors in real time.
Best Looking: Awair Element
- Sensors: CO2, VOCs, PM, temperature, humidity
- Battery Life: Plug-in only
- Display Size: 4 inches
- Warranty: 1 year
- Sleek minimalist look
- Well-designed app
- Reasonable price point
- Wide range of sensors
- No wireless option
- Display is tough to read at a glance
If you want an air quality sensor in your home—but don’t want it to be an eyesore or clutter up your counters—the Awair Element is likely your best choice. This sleek cleverly designed device uses a small bar graph made of LED lights to show you relative quantities of various pollutants in real time. Our testers found the display was easy to read and interpret with a little practice. We appreciated how easily the monitor blended in with our background decor thanks to its minimalist silhouette.
And with a wide range of sensors—from CO2 to particulate matter—we found it told us everything we needed to know to reassure us about the quality of our air at home. The only downside is that there are no labels on the device itself. To interpret the graph, you have to know what each of the pollutants are.
What to Consider When Choosing an Air Quality Monitor
Most air quality monitors give you to-the-minute readings of your home’s carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity levels, as well as provide advanced warnings about specific airborne toxins like radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They’re essential tools for folks who suffer from asthma, headaches, and even brain fog, but they’re also useful for all kinds of homeowners. By providing side-by-side comparisons to outdoor air, they can show you whether or not your home is well-sealed against outside contaminants. Air quality monitors can also help you identify rooms at risk of mold growth.
Anytime you purchase a product intended to help you improve your health, be sure to do plenty of research. Different users have different experiences with accuracy, and some monitors may be more accurate for certain chemicals or certain uses. Be sure to read a number of user reviews as well as editorial reviews (like this one). While many personal, keychain-sized air quality monitors are inconsistent and frequently inaccurate, most large monitors from reputable manufacturers are relatively accurate, especially when it comes to measurements of temperature, humidity, CO2, and airborne particulate matter. VOC measurements, however, tend to be less reliable across manufacturers.
Measurements and Features
Different monitors measure different air quality factors. Some, like the Aranet4 HOME, measure only carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity. Others, like the AirThings View Plus measure all those variables as well as pressure, particulate matter, VOCs, and radon. Higher-tech sensors may also pull in external weather data to give you a sense of the conditions you can expect both indoors and outdoors on any given day. The best air quality monitor for you will depend largely upon what air quality variables you’re most curious about.
Ease of Use
Air quality is a complex topic, and reading some air quality monitor interfaces can make you feel like you’re back in a high school physics class. If you want to be able to quickly understand and interpret air quality alerts, you’ll need an interface that’s well-designed and easy to read. Some interfaces, like the Awair Element, prioritize a clean, minimalist design. That makes them a more beautiful addition to a modern home but also makes them slightly more difficult to read. Other interfaces, like that of the Air Visual Pro Indoor Sensor, appear a bit more cluttered but are very easy to interpret at a glance. These types of interfaces may be better suited to users who are new to air quality monitoring.
Q: How do air quality monitors work?
The best air quality monitors make real-time measurements of the air where they’re placed. Some use infrared sensors or lasers to measure the concentration of floating particles, which may be “visible” to the laser but not to the human eye. Most also draw air through an intake valve or filter. That air then passes through a variety of chemical sensors, which are equipped to detect levels of chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxygen, or carbon dioxide (CO2). Some monitors also use wifi to download satellite and weather data, which can help inform readings about ambient air quality. However, monitors that rely solely—or mostly—on external data may not be worth your money. That’s because this information is available for free via the EPA’s AirNow app, an air quality measurement interface that provides some of the most accurate, up-to-date information about outdoor air contaminants like wildfire smoke, particulate matter, and other pollutants in your area. These outdoor pollutants are usually the primary cause of indoor air contamination.
Q: Do air quality monitors detect mold?
Most air quality monitors aren’t equipped to detect mold—at least, not directly. They can, however, measure the humidity within your home. Mold thrives in high-moisture environments, so the higher your home’s humidity, the more likely you are to have mold. Some air quality monitors may also be able to detect airborne particulates, including mold spores. If mold detection is your top priority, look for a monitor with at least a PM10 rating, which can detect airborne particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller. Particles of this size or smaller can be inhaled into the lungs—a potential health hazard if the particulates are toxic mold spores. A monitor with a PM2.5 rating may provide even finer levels of detection. That said, even if an air quality monitor does show levels of particulate matter, most have no way of telling what that particulate matter is made of and therefore can’t tell you whether you actually have a mold problem or whether it’s just pollen or dust. In general, look for daily PM2.5 concentrations of 35 µg/m3 or less, and PM10 concentrations of 150 µg/m3 or less.
Q: Are air quality monitors accurate?
Some air quality monitors are more accurate than others. However, most can be trusted to get you within a reasonable range of the correct measurement, especially for particulate matter, radon, and carbon dioxide. If you’re working on a rigorous scientific experiment that requires maximum precision, a low-cost indoor air quality monitor might not do the trick. But if you’re simply trying to determine whether or not your air is safe to breathe, most at-home air quality monitoring systems will be more than accurate enough.
The biggest issue with at-home air-quality monitors is their VOC sensor. While some VOCs are carcinogenic compounds, there are many less-dangerous VOCs out there. Most VOC sensors aren’t equipped to tell you what exactly is in your air or how dangerous it is. As such, VOC sensing is a pretty generalized, limited measurement. Plus, according to some tests, low-cost VOC sensors may last just six to 12 months before they begin to falter. So, while VOC concentration can be an important measurement, this shouldn’t be your deciding factor when searching for an air quality monitor.
The EPA also states that the accuracy of an air quality monitor may be affected by the monitor’s location, how old it is, and how long it’s been in continuous use. Accuracy can also vary considerably from one brand or model to the next. But, again, most devices provide CO2, radon, and PM readings within a reasonable range. Even if they’re not perfectly accurate, they can provide the information you need to make healthful decisions about your home’s air.
Best Air Quality Monitors: Final Thoughts
The best air quality monitors are those that balance accuracy with ease of use. Look for a top-rated mobile app and an intuitive interface that’s easy to read at a glance. Make sure your monitor measures the air factors you’re most concerned about, whether that’s simply temperature and humidity or levels of toxic chemicals like radon. Of all the ones we tested, we like the AirThings View Plus, although any of the models on this list are a good choice.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.
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