Disclaimer: Airthings sent me this doohickey for free to test out. It’s not going to flavour my review which is ultimately; love it, but it’s a bit pricey. Read on for more details.
Maybe it’s an age thing. I say that about nearly everything now that I’m hitting my mid-30s. I just let out an audible laugh. “Hitting” says I. I am in my mid-30s. At 34, there’s no wiggle room on that. But to be fair I knew I was firmly in my mid-30s when I got excited about an air monitor landing in for review. The Airthings View Plus to be precise.
Why Care About Air Monitoring?
I brew beer. I can tell you that a lot of people that brew beer care a lot about the craft. They measure ingredients to the gram and boil to an exact degree for a duration down to the second. Yet, some of these meticulous brewers chuck in whatever water comes from the tap without a second thought.
Beer is 95% water.
If there’s something that’ll impact your beer, it’s water.
So, what else do we consume a lot of but never really think of the make-up? Ah yes. That lung stuff; air.
I used to think that controlling the air in my home meant HEPA filters and big expensive fans like my (still very beloved) Dyson. To be fair, it makes sense. Air is bad, big fan turns on, air is good. Simple right?
But since I got the Airthings Wave Plus, I’ve realised it can be as simple as opening a window. I’ve just moved and airflow is a bit of a problem in the new place. I’ve woken up groggy a few times. Hungover almost. After doing some reading, the mornings after nights I wasn’t out (honestly, there were a few) that feeling was coming from high CO2 levels.
Monitoring the air in your home, means you can work out why you’re feeling the way you do.
Airthings View Plus
This monitoring was made possible by the Airthings View Plus. Now, I had an idea of the problem because of my Dyson, but the Dyson is a bit more passive with information. It solves the problem to an extent and doesn’t proactively seek to bother you with it.
The Airthings View Plus sends notifications and links into the world of IFTTT. IFTTT, I’ll come back to later on.
But in terms of monitoring, the Airthings View Plus is robust. This small little unit can be mounted by the included stickers, permanently with screws or just left in a room. You charge it via USB-C but then won’t need to worry about the battery for up to two years. Then, it’s connected to your WiFi so you can keep up to date with the air at home.
Airthings has an app and a dashboard with the latter being a bit more palatable in terms of data digestion. On the device itself, you can choose the insights you most want to know and have them presented to you via the on-board e-ink display.
This wee device can monitor all of the following:
Radon is bad stuff. It’s bad stuff but also very common. To give it the proper scary description, the HSE describes Radon as a “naturally occurring radioactive gas”. Radon is the main source of radiation exposure in Ireland. Ireland ranks eight-highest in the world for the average concentration of Radon and the EPA provides a map for you to check out your home area.
Wonderful, eh? It gets better.
Radon has no colour, odour or smell. So the only way to know if you’re at risk or not is by getting a Radon detector. The Airthings View Plus is one such detector.
I won’t lie. Researching this article, this section scared me a bit. So it was cool to learn all this and see my home Radon levels being quite low.
PM stands for Particulate Matter. It’s basically the dust and crap that’s in the air. See Mum, I could have been a scientist if I was arsed.
PM2.5 is very small, so don’t expect to see it with your eyes. It’s the reason you have to dust at home once a week. It builds up on your furniture. It also ends up in your lungs and can make you quite sick. If you’re near a busy road or building site, you could see this value increase on your Airthings View Plus.
According to the HSE, being exposed to PM2.5 can cause asthma, eye irritation, headaches and more.
You can tackle high levels of PM2.5 by vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum, avoid burning solid fuel, quit smoking and close windows during rush hour.
Air quality at home is a real balancing act. Closing your windows can protect you from external PM2.5 but then CO2 starts to build up from people breathing. There’s no winning.
Many say ignorance is bliss, but it’s really not. Ignorance is ignorance. The Airthings View Plus helps you manage your home air quality. It’s been brilliant for us in the new apartment. We can close the windows and bunker down for rush hour, but then get a reminder to open them again to ensure we’re getting optimal amounts of oxygen.
High levels of CO2 are also a broad indicator of poor air quality. Alone, CO2 can also ruin your sleep, leave you groggy (this was me) and even cause drowsiness. It’s bad stuff. You should know when there’s too much of it in your gaff.
It’s not overly uncommon to find mould in accommodation in Ireland. This is often caused by poor ventilation and high humidity. If you keep your humidity levels below 60%, mould can’t germinate.
Are you seeing the power of this information now?
The bad news is that you might need to head out and buy a dehumidifier to manage really high levels of humidity in the home.
Well it’s nice to know how warm or cold it is, right? But there’s a benefit to this info too. Optimal sleeping temps are way below 20 degrees.
Have you ever heard someone say their knee could tell you the weather? It’s a thing. It’s all about air pressure. I’m not saying that guy in the pub wasn’t talking shite most of the time, but for this one, he’s bang on.
Air pressure affects Radon levels and can indeed cause headaches, joint pain and fatigue. Having a monitor like the Airthings View Plus means you can know more about how you’re feeling. It’s incredibly valuable.
Like, VOC is other things, but it’s also farts.
VOC stands for Volatiles Organic Compounds. To be fair, farts probably aren’t the primary source. VOCs come from paint, fuel, nail polish, perfume, candles, cooking, and the list goes on and on. The cleaning products you use can cause VOC spikes at home. Knowing you have high levels of VOCs is the first step. Next, you need to work out the source.
Check your timings. What happened around a spike? Did you light a candle? Did someone fart? Laugh all you want, it’s important to know that.
Now, deal with the issue. I know you can’t kick your roommate or dog out for farting, but you can blow out the candle, or open a window after doing your nails.
Airthings and IFTTT
I mentioned Airthings being proactive. It is, and that’s great. But sometimes you need a little more drama to get the message across. IFTTT is an amazing platform that lets you connect your smart home. Personally, I think this is the ultimate example of how IFTTT can help you at home.
I have a LIFX smart bulb in the living room. This is also where I have the Airthings View Plus at the moment. IFTTT lets these two things talk and work together.
It’s generally recommended that a CO2 level no higher than 1000 ppm be allowed at home. To be on the safe side, I set a threshold of 800 ppm in IFTTT.
When the CO2 levels breach 800 ppm, my LIFX light flashes red 10 times. It’s time to open the windows.
When levels go back below 500 ppm, the light flashes green 10 times. If it’s a bit cold or noisy, the windows can be closed again.
A very intuitive example of how you can proactively monitor and control the air quality of your home.
You could get more clever here too. Connect your air purifier to a smart plug controlled by IFTTT and Airthings levels. See, cool isn’t it.
Airthings Isn’t Perfect
Airthings is nerd heaven. Lots of data and lots of insight. But there does need to be a lot of willingness to learn on your behalf. Some of the data isn’t easy to understand. A personal pet peeve of mine is the timeline graph. It’s never clear what time of the day you’re looking at so it can be tricky to narrow down the data.
At €299, the View Plus isn’t cheap. It’s really not cheap when you realise it just tells you the problem. Dyson air purifiers often have very similar data, but also solve the problem.
However, air purifiers are often expensive, so it’s not all bad that you can split out the sensors from the machine and only get the solutions you need.
Airthings View Plus: The Verdict
This is the very top-of-the-range air quality monitor from Airthings. Quite literally, it’s life-changing. The information it gives you cannot be ignored. It’s a bit of an Irish thing in my eyes. We just don’t like to think about things like the air, despite it being something we breathe every second of every day.
It’s a pity it’s pricey. And that it can only inform. But that’s a start. I can see these things getting cheaper and I hope I can see all of us care a lot more about the air we breathe.