Finally: An Affordable Indoor Air Quality Monitor!

Each month I will try to introduce a new “tool” for creating a healthier, more efficient, or more sustainable home. Today, I will outline my Foobot IAQ Sensor!

Summary: An Indoor Air Quality sensor will help you visualize how healthy your home is. I personally have several different sensors operating at all times. My Foobot is the first “all in one” device and measures a number of different items. I have been happy with its ease of use and highly recommend people with IAQ concerns start here. Information is king!

This nifty little gadget has been making me more aware of the air I am breathing. Although I do not consider the $200 price tag to be cheap, it definitely offers fantastic “bang for the buck.” Most IAQ monitors come with a much higher cost and generally they only monitor one aspect of air quality. Common household sensors include either Humidity, particulate matter, C02, or volatile compounds. With the Footbot, you get all of these conditions in one neat little box.

Here is a quick rundown of the different aspects of IAQ and why they are important:

1. Humidity: The amount water vapor in your interior air. An optimum house will have a continuous relative humidity level between 35% and 55%. When your home begins to get above 55%….mold can grow. When levels drop below 35%….the air becomes uncomfortable.

2. Particulate Matter: For our purposes this is measured as fine particles in your air that can be inhaled into your body. Any small particles from smoke, cooking, pet dander, allergens, cleaning supplies etc. If you have someone with asthma, COPD, or allergy issues….this is an important level to watch. Your goal is to keep your home below 12 (uG/m3) a minimum of 95% of the day.

3. C02: Levels of interior C02 will rise because of a number of conditions. Mainly, I see mine spike when I entertain guests (more people breathing) or while I’m cooking on my gas stove. Your goal is to keep your home below 1300 ppm for the majority of the day. C02 is not considered particularly dangerous at these levels…but it is a good identifier for how much fresh air you have. Also, a Harvard research study found that C02 levels above your desired threshold can lead to lower cognitive function. You are reading that correctly! Having high C02 in your home might be making you stupider!

4. Volatile Compounds: The level of interior VOCs are generally determined by the level of gases or chemicals that might have been brought into your home. A number of items could be effecting your VOC level. Including off-gassing carpet/furniture, paint, cleaning supplies, building materials, etc. If you have ever noticed cans of paint at the hardware store that say LOW VOC….this is exactly what they are talking about. Aim to keep your interior VOC level below 300 ppb. Whenever you choose to do some household painting or cleaning; these levels will likely surpass your desired threshold.

Blue Foobot = healthy air!

My Footbot manages to stay “blue” roughly 90% of the day. However, it always reacts when I am cleaning or cooking in the house. Different household actions will lead to “bad” air. Luckily, I can see these conditions taking place and try to limit the amount of time/frequency.

Orange Foobot = Unhealthy Air
Here is the smartphone AP from Foobot on a normal day with 4 people in the house. My C02 levels are beginning to creep upwards from the occupancy but overall everything looks good. A Winter interior humidity level of 31% is common in old houses and leads to uncomfortably dry air…but we will talk about this later 🙂

Overall, the main benefit of owning a Foobot is that you will have a better understanding for how your actions might be effecting your home. Information is king in the world of sustainability. I’ve now had this little device active for 11 months. I can honestly say that the information is useful and as I make other upgrades to my 100 year old home…I can see how they correlate with my air quality.

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