Interested in the air quality of your smart home? Airthings has a product line that fits the bill but if you want smart home integrations based on the data, your options are thin. I’ve been using the $199.99 Airthings View Pollution in my house for the past two weeks. In my experience, the limited sensors suggest upgrading to the $299.99 View Plus model. Even that device will face some of the challenges I’ve seen, however.
From a hardware perspective, I like this device. It’s well designed and easily fits into my home decor, meaning: It doesn’t look like some random gadget. In fact, it differs little from what most people might think is a big home thermostat. The View Pollution has a very readable eInk display and LEDs that only appear when you wave your hand in front of the device. That feature is to view current in-home air quality issues and readings. A green LED is good, while yellow or red indicates air quality levels of fair or poor.
Inside the View Pollution are sensors for temperature, humidity, and particulate matter (PM 2.5) in your home. The View Plus model adds sensors for radon, carbon dioxide, VOCs (or airborne chemicals), and air pressure. For the extra $100, I think you’re getting a much more capable product in the View Plus, even though I haven’t used it. There are also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios in the View Pollution, space for the six included AA batteries and a USB port to run on electrical power. The batteries are expected to last two years and based only losing three percent of their capacity in two weeks, that sounds about right.
I had no issues setting up the View Pollution, which uses the Airthings Wave mobile app and the Bluetooth on your phone for the process. Within two minutes, I set up a room for the device and was monitoring the air quality in my home. Sort of.
Airthings says it takes seven days to calibrate the sensors. So while I could start monitoring the air immediately, the data might be a little off. That’s not a knock on Airthings though: The device does work out of the box and you’re likely getting data that’s “good enough” for that first week.
You can decide to have the app send you notifications for any or all of the sensor monitoring, but you can’t set the thresholds. That means you’ll get alerts based on the Airthings recommendations. Those are reasonable, however, and likely close to what I would have set them at.
In the app, you can also view real-time or historical sensor data. There’s also a link to a web dashboard, which I liked to see on larger screens.
Below is an example of my home’s data from a desktop browser. Note that the outdoor air data at the bottom left is not from the View Pollution; that information is pulled in from third party sources.
If you’re wondering what the spikes in the particulate matter are in the bottom graph, those were some of my test cases. We have air purifiers throughout most of the house, so I didn’t expect any air quality issues. And for the first 10 days, I was right: The View Pollution didn’t show any problems. So I decided to create my own.
We’re currently refinishing an upstairs room, so I figured a little more heavy floor sanding was in order. And each time I made the plywood a wee bit smoother, the air quality in my house deteriorated. The longer I sanded, the higher the spike on the graph. While this isn’t a very controlled test, it beat out my first idea of running around with a piece of fiberglass insulation from the attic. My wife nixed that option and still hasn’t forgiven me for suggesting it.
I also compared the temperature and humidity levels between the View Pollution and my ecobee thermostat during the testing period. I saw little to no variation between the two, making me comfortable that the View Pollution sensors are accurate.
You can stop reading now if you just want to monitor your home’s air quality. The View Pollution works for that. But if you want to do anything with that data, read on because this device may not be for you.
Officially, Airthings says this product integrates with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. That’s true but the first two integrations are very limited. Even worse, I never got Google Assistant to connect with the device. And apparently, I’m not the only one as PC Mag had the same issue with the View Plus.
Even if I did, the integration would have come up short because you can only ask for the current levels of temperature, humidity, or particulate matter. A more robust integration would work with smart air purifiers or HVAC systems to expel some bad air from the home.
You can do those sorts of automations on your own with IFTTT or with the Airthings’ API. I tested the former by having a Hue bulb turn red during one of my floor sanding spikes, for example. But relying mainly on IFTTT isn’t the best approach for smart home hardware. That’s why I think this might be a good product for non-smart home owners. It works well to monitor and log air quality.
For those with smart homes looking for robust integrations? I think the cost is a bit much and the functionality is a bit too low for what you’re getting. We already suspect that ecobee is prepping air quality sensors for its next thermostat and I’m sure there are other connected options that have better integrations to choose from. Stacey used a $90 Awair C for air quality monitoring and has it connected to a smart air purifier, for example.
So the View Pollution would be a pass for me. Getting data from and about my home is good, but taking action based on that data is even better.