A review of the Awair Element indoor air quality monitor

March 8, 2021 reviews hardware awair air quality monitor


Awair Element, banana for scale

The Awair Element is a five-dimensional air quality monitor with data logging, a pleasant design, and convenient integrations. It costs $149. I liked that it was very easy to set up, and then it simply works, sending you reminders to open a window or humidify more.

Core features

The Awair Element measures 5 values over time:

In my household testing, all of these show reasonable values and change with inputs. So it gets a “good enough” seal of approval. In my opinion, you don’t need lab-level precise values — the point of an air quality monitor is to help you make adjustments, not to do science. What’s far more valuable is the convenience and integrations.

I like a lot that there is a fan inside the monitor, so it actively circulates air. That’s why I am more confident that the monitor reflects broader room conditions.

That said, it takes around 5 minutes for the Awair to show actual values if you carry it from room to room.

You get not only momentary values but a historical log — accessible through the app and APIs. This is useful to understand how your atmosphere changes over time and what affects it.

Build


Left: backside, displaying USB-C port. Right: PM2.5 warning in the kitchen after some heavy frying.

Connectivity

App


Weekly CO² chart

The app is nice and smooth. There’s no jank that you often see with smart device apps.

What’s essential is that you get charts for all the values. Without charts, it’s quite impossible to understand what is going on with the air.

You get push notifications for status changes. You can share access with other accounts. Of course, you can add multiple devices to the same app. Devices (“rooms”) are organized into “homes.”

Integrations

Developer integrations of the Awair are kind of awesome.

For the simplest kind, you have IFTTT. There are triggers for each of the values. You can’t specify a precise threshold, but pick one of the 5 predefined levels.

Then there are APIs. There’s a regular HTTP API, but what’s even better, there’s an API server that works right on the device. So you can build local automation that doesn’t depend on the cloud. Hopefully, even if the company goes out of business, you can continue using that local automation.

There are other integrations, with smart assistants to announce values, and with a couple of thermostat models.

And, you can export the log as a CSV, straight from the app. The CSV contains precise values with a 5-minute resolution.

Conclusion

Who would need an air quality monitor? Well, most everyone who lives indoors. Because, as studies show, more CO² in the room makes thinking harder. So you need to ventilate regularly. But how often? And should you do it now? An air quality monitor makes you aware of what you are breathing, and if you’re industrious enough, it can even help you improve it — automatically.

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