The air inside your home might not be healthy, even if it smells fresh. Some gases, such as radon and carbon monoxide, are colorless and odorless but can be harmful if inhaled. Most indoor air quality monitors will detect oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the home, and many others will detect additional pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and airborne particulate matter (PM). Some units also measure temperature and humidity levels in the home.
The best air quality monitor for you depends on which pollutants you want to keep track of and whether you prefer a simple model or one with lots of bells and whistles. Ahead, learn what today’s air quality monitors offer and find out why the following recommendations are the best on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Awair Element Indoor Air Quality Monitor
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ExGizmo Digital Air Quality Detector
- MOST HIGH-TECH: Airthings 2930 Wave Plus Radon & Air Quality Monitor
- MOST COMPREHENSIVE: Huma-i (HI-150) Advanced Portable Air Quality Monitor
- BEST FOR ALLERGIES: Atmotube Pro Portable Outdoor and Indoor Air Monitor
- BEST BUDGET: Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor
- BEST BATTERY OPERATED: BIAOLING Accurate Tester Air Quality Monitor
- BEST PORTABLE: Temtop P600 Air Quality Particle Detector
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Air Quality Monitor
Today’s air quality monitors range from single-pollutant sensors, such as radon detectors, to multiple-pollutant detection models that seek out the presence of several toxic gases. In most cases, you’ll want a monitor that detects the pollutants that put your home and family at the most significant risk. For example, look for a radon detector if you live in a region with known radon problems or a carbon monoxide detector if you have a wood-burning fireplace in your home. In addition, consider the following factors when shopping for an air quality monitor.
Consumer-quality monitors are not as precise as laboratory detectors, but they’re good enough to alert homeowners that airborne particulates and toxic gases are present. Monitors designed to detect dangerous gasses, such as VOCs and carbon monoxide, feature electrochemical sensors that respond to the presence of gaseous toxins in the air. These sensors should be calibrated regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, to ensure they remain accurate.
Monitors designed to detect dust, allergens, and other airborne particulates do so by estimating the amount of particulate matter (PM) that passes in front of a laser. These are valuable measurements but may not be exact, as larger PM might not drift into the laser chamber and the tiniest PM might be overlooked by the laser. Monitors designed to detect particulate matter are rated by the smallest particulates they will detect. If the unit bears a PM2.5 rating, it will detect particulates that are as small as 2.5 microns. For comparison, a human hair is approximately 70 microns in diameter.
Ease of Use
While some air quality monitors are relatively straightforward, others are pretty high-tech. For example, there are now models on the market that are Wi-Fi capable. You simply connect it to a home’s router in order to monitor air quality from a smartphone or tablet. Single-pollutant detectors, such as carbon monoxide detectors, are among the simplest to use because they often just plug into an outlet. If they detect the gas in question, they emit a high-pitched alarm. The best air quality monitor for your needs should be easy for you to use, depending on your technical skill level. Don’t choose a model that is so complex you have to spend hours watching online videos to figure out how it operates.
Most air quality monitors are relatively small, with a sensor unit and a screen that displays how much of the pollutant is currently in the air. Portable units, which fit in a toolbelt, purse, or tool bag, are the smallest of all. These are best for testing the air on job sites or in rental homes that don’t have stationary monitors.
Higher-quality devices often have quicker response times because their sensors are more accurate. Response times will also vary depending on which pollutant the monitor is tracking. For example, some carbon monoxide monitors will sound an alarm after detecting a low level of gas over the course of a couple of hours; however, if they detect a higher gas level, the monitor will sound the alarm after just a few minutes. Monitors that measure dust and pollen may not emit a warning, but track and record the varying levels of the pollutants by the hour.
Air quality monitors are either corded and run on electricity from a standard household outlet or are battery operated, in which case they’ll run on rechargeable batteries. Both are efficient, but, if you need to test the air in a storage shed or another remote location, a battery-operated model is the handiest.
Our Top Picks
The best air quality monitors accurately detect a range of airborne pollutants, so you can take steps to improve the quality of air your family breathes.
The Awair Element Indoor Air Quality Monitor evaluates your home’s air quality by measuring carbon dioxide levels and tracking VOCs and particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). It also measures temperature and humidity levels and connects with Alexa and Google Assistant for smart-home integration; you will need to download a free app to access the data on your smartphone or tablet.
This monitor offers cutting-edge air detection technology and can track changes and patterns in air quality over time, so you can develop a comprehensive plan for keeping the air in your home healthy.
You can get the reassurance that comes with monitoring air quality at an affordable price point. The ExGizmo Air Quality Monitor has an LCD color screen that displays the home’s current air quality index (AQI), temperature, relative humidity, and airborne particulate matter at the push of a button. This model is lightweight and easy to use, but it may not be “smart” enough for tech geeks.
The ExGizmo does not connect to WiFi—it just offers immediate and straightforward air quality results on its screen.
For real-time indoor air monitoring that integrates seamlessly with Google Assistant, Alexa, or if this, then that technology (IFTTT), check out the Airthings Wave Air Quality Monitor. The monitor connects using Bluetooth technology via the Airthings app to give you detailed reports about your home’s air quality. The app syncs with an online dashboard with advanced analytics, so you can chart your home’s air quality over time.
The monitor detects a wide variety of VOCs, radon, and carbon dioxide, plus other chemicals and toxins, so you’ll always know what’s in the air you’re breathing.
Airborne particulate matter, carbon dioxide, and VOCs can’t hide from the Huma-i Air Quality Monitor. Carry this small portable air monitor in your pocket to monitor the air as you go from room to room, or place it on a dresser or table for constant monitoring of a nursery, bedroom, or other space. The Huma-i features advanced fan technology that draws air into the monitor for real-time testing and a digital readout showing the current amount of pollutants in the air you’re breathing. The monitor also detects humidity levels.
The display features several different screens alternating between bar graphs, numerals, and “good” or “poor” designations for each type of pollutant. This is not a smart air monitor but one that features data right on the monitor’s screen.
For detecting and tracking a wide range of VOCs, including formaldehyde and methanol, plus dust, pollen, soot, and a host of other airborne allergens, it’s tough to beat the Atmotube Pro Portable Air Quality Monitor. This small portable monitor easily attaches to a belt loop or can be placed in different rooms, such as the bedroom of a family member with allergies, to detect the presence of allergens and other pollutants. It also measures temperature and humidity levels.
The Atmotube uses Bluetooth technology to connect to your smartphone or tablet via the monitor’s mobile app. When the quality of the air you’re breathing falls below a point that you determine, you’ll receive an alert, so you can turn on an air purifier or open a window depending on the pollutant detected.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get the reassurance that comes with knowing the air in your home is safe to breathe. The Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor will detect particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns (PM2.5) as well as the presence of formaldehyde and other VOCs. It comes with a particulate sensor and an electrochemical sensor. Its 3.2-inch by 3.2-inch LED screen is easy to see.
One feature we especially like about the Temtop is that it has a color-coded indicator light on the top that shines green when the air quality is good, yellow when some particulates are detected, and red when the air quality is poor. A Home button at the top allows the user to cycle quickly through the various readings, and because it’s battery operated you can use the monitor in the car or in the house. A charging cord is included.
For dependable particulate and gas detection even when the power goes out, check out the BIAOLING Air Quality Monitor. The unit will monitor air quality for up to 10 hours on a single charge and display its results on an easy-to-read LED screen. This model will identify particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) and a range of VOCs, in addition to detecting formaldehyde and carbon dioxide. We like how you can configure the unit to sound an alarm when the air quality reaches an unsafe level.
The BIAOLING monitor comes with a 3000 mAh rechargeable battery that charges via a USB port as well as a fold-out stand, so you can put it on a dresser or desktop for easy reference. The monitor measures 5.8 inches by 2.76 inches by 1.18 inches.
If you’re looking for a portable air quality monitor that will alert you to allergens and other particulate matter, look no further than the TemTop P600 Air Quality Detector. It uses a professional-quality QSI laser diode to detect particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns. The unit comes with a kickstand that folds out, so you can stand your monitor on a table, nightstand, or even a tent floor if you’re camping out. This portable air quality monitor is designed for those who have allergies or asthma or for anyone who wants to make sure the air they are breathing is safe.
One of the Temtop’s upsides is that it displays air quality over a 12-hour period on a histogram readout. This view helps the user analyze changes in the home, such as the cat coming indoors or when a window is open, that affect air quality. It comes with a USB charging cord, and the monitor will run up to six hours on a single charge.
FAQs About Your New Air Quality Monitor
Very few things are as important as the quality of air your family is breathing. If you’re new to the world of air quality monitors, you likely have some questions.
Q. What are the most common airborne pollutants?
The most common pollutants are airborne particulate matter, such as dust, pet dander, and pollen.
Q. How do air quality monitors work?
They sense high or unhealthy levels of particulate matter or toxic gases and alert residents if the levels become dangerous.
Q. Can air quality monitors detect mold?
Most consumer models can’t detect mold. You can, however, purchase a home mold test that comes with a petri dish and ingredients that will trigger mold growth if your home has a mold problem.