Did you know that Amazon makes an air quality monitor? I didn’t!
Then I saw an ad for one on Amazon’s front page, and I thought I’d plunk down the $70 to see if it was worth it. And is the Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor really all that smart? Did it live up to my rather modest investment? Do I actually need an air quality monitor? Read on!
I should note that the Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor isn’t a stand-alone device. You have to either use an Echo device of some sort or the Alexa app on your phone to set up/use this device.
Yes, that means if you don’t want to have Amazon “listening devices” in your home, you won’t be able to use this device. Thems the breaks! There are many other, much more expensive, air quality monitors out there for you!
Now, the reason I even thought about getting an air quality monitor is that I’m a modern parent living through a pandemic. The air is out to get everyone! Plus, we had wondered if the air was alright in the boys’ room.
We do have these air purifiers in most of the rooms in our apartment, so I didn’t really think that there was a problem, but if I can get a relatively cheap gadget to monitor a problem that I don’t have, you know, I’m going to do it!
Before I saw the ad on Amazon.com, I had no idea I wanted an air quality monitor at all, to be honest. Once I realized I could get one on the cheap, I was mostly looking for reassurance that the air in my children’s room wasn’t killing them. I’m not an air quality expert, so I can’t assess this product on how accurate it is, but I can tell you if it is easy to set up (yes), easy to use (yes), and if I’d recommend it.
The Amazon Air Quality Monitor samples the air and measures the temperature (handy), humidity, Particulate Matter (little bits of floating crap), CO, and Volatile Organic Compounds (little bits of organic crap). It takes all of this information and generates an Indoor Air Quality score (higher is better) to give you a sense of how worried you should be. If you have more than one of these tiny sensors (they are really small!), you get an overall score that’s an average and then individual scores for each room.
The AQM (as I will now call it) is surprisingly small, which makes sense since I suppose it just needs a little fan to suck in air and some sensors to analyze said air. The box includes a power adaptor and a micro USB cable which is pretty long (I assume you can also probably power it via a power USB hub if you wanted to, but I just plugged it into the wall).
This is a “Certified for Humans” device, which is an Amazon program promising that this device won’t be complicated to set up. I assumed this was just marketing BS, but I was wrong.
When you first buy the AQM, you can associate the AQM with your Amazon account out of the box by checking a box as you add it to your Amazon cart. I opted for that because I’m all about vertical Amazon integration in my life, and if you buy one of these for yourself, I suggest you keep that box checked.
Why? Thanks to that little checkbox, I opened up the box, placed the AQM where I wanted it, and it magically just set itself up with my Echos. The AQM showed up in my Alexa app; I didn’t have to do a darned thing!
Spoiler alert: I ended up buying another one, and there was some lag when it was setting itself up, so I thought I had to do it manually. The manual process involves opening the Alexa app on your phone and scanning a QR code included with the device. As I was doing that for the second AQM, I got an alert that it had set itself up. Magic delayed is still magic!
Once set up is complete, it calibrates itself for a couple of minutes, and then you’re ready to obsess over your air quality.
At this point, I’d suggest you pop into the AQM’s settings (I’ll take about more of these later) and change the name to something meaningful to you. I’m boring, so I just name my after the room that they are in, which makes it easy for me to quickly see what’s what, but you do you.
This Air Quality Monitor is all about keeping things simple, so it has three categories that the various things it measures can fall into:
- Good (represented by the color green, as you would suspect).
- Moderate (yellow)
- Bad (red)
Depending on how you get the air quality (see the methods below), you’ll either see the color and the actual score or get a qualitative description of the score. It is pretty darned simple, even if my description isn’t.
You can access the air quality readings in a few ways:
- Ask Alexa what the indoor air quality is, and she’ll tell you. You do have to specify “indoor,” or she’ll just give you the general air quality for your area.
- Via the Alexa app.
- Via an Echo with a screen.
- Lights on the device itself.
I’ve mostly used the Alexa app, but I’ll discuss all four ways.
Certainly, the most straightforward way to get your Air Quality score is to just say, “Alexa, what’s the indoor air quality?” She’ll let you know the score. And that’s it!
If you have more than one Air Quality Monitor, which I do, she will only tell you the score from one of them (in my experience, it has been the one with the better score). You can’t access anything beyond the overall score with an Alexa voice query.
Clearly, the fine folks at Amazon want you to use the Alexa app to see your Air Quality information since this is how you get the most data.
Once you add an AQM to your home, a new “Air Quality” icon appears under “Devices.” Tap it to access the Air Quality dashboard.
Here you’ll see all the AQMs you have and their color-coded scores. Tap on one to dive into the particulars.
You’re taken to a screen that shows your current air quality score and lists all the current color-coded readings of what the device measures. Scroll down, and you can see a trend graph by the hour, Day, or Week.
You can either tap on the reading you want more detail about (like temperature) or select it from the scrollable list at the top. Each detail screen gives you some information about the reading and the same trend graphs with the same detail options.
It is nice to see these trends because I know it is time to open the windows!
Echo with a screen
You can see the Air Quality Dashboard on your Echo with a Screen if you like, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The interface is just like what you’ll see in the Alexa app, but it isn’t as snappy, and swiping on an Echo device is just annoying. Stick with the app.
Not everyone in your life will have access to your Alexa app or know how to use an Echo (I recall trying to explain to my mother-in-law how to turn off the lights using Alexa. She slept with the lights on the first night she was here, to give you an idea of how that went). That’s why the LED light on the device itself is so useful.
It’ll glow three different colors to indicate the air quality level around it:
- Green means good (and will generally be on most of the time).
- Yellow means the air quality is moderate.
- Red is poor air quality. Open that window! Or maybe close it…
These things wouldn’t be of much use if they monitored the air quality but didn’t report the findings to anyone, right? Luckily, you can set notifications per monitor.
In the settings, there’s a whole Notifications section that allows you to tell the device how you’d like it to notify you.
It’ll announce any changes on your Echo devices (you get to pick which Echo devices it uses, which is nice since I wouldn’t want the Echo Dot in my boys’ room to announce to them at 2am that the air quality had changed).
You can also have a push notification come through the Alexa app, which is nice.
Since I have two monitors, I have the one in the livingroom set to notify us via the Echo in the living room with an audible alert and push a notification to my Alexa app (so I can know what’s up whilst I’m not in the living room or the apartment for that matter).
LED of Doom
By default, the monitor’s little LED light on its face will glow blue to let you know everything is fine. I, for one, find that sort of feedback annoying. I don’t need to see a light that tells me everything is fine when everything is fine most of the time.
Luckily, you can turn this LED off (Settings > About > Enable LED Indicator). The really nice thing, though, is even with this set to off, it’ll turn red when the air quality is poor. This allows everyone to know something is up, even if the folks in the room don’t have access to the Alexa app or notifications are off.
Sense something, do something
As you might expect from something calling itself a “smart” air quality monitor, this little thing can be told to trigger routines when certain conditions are met.
I’ll be honest; I haven’t set any of these up because I can’t really think of anything that I would have it do. The obvious thing would be to have an air purifier turn on when certain thresholds are met, but I don’t have smart purifiers.
You can also do things like have to email you when the temperature reaches a certain point or flash the lights when humidity reaches 85% (nice and steamy!). Also, probably more interesting and useful things.
Routines are very powerful, and I think they will make this a very compelling device for some people. For me? I don’t need them now, but I’m glad they exist.
The obvious downside to the Amazon Air Quality Monitor is right in the name. It is entirely dependent on Amazon’s ecosystem. If you don’t have an Echo device or don’t want to use the Alexa app, this thing just won’t work for you!
And it is reachable outside of your home network since it hooks up to your Amazon account via your Alexa. I find this to be a plus since I can check in on the air while I’m at work, but I know others would probably rather that sort of data not leave their home.
I’d also like to be able to see the data from the monitors somewhere other than on an Echo or in the Alexa app. I’d really like it if I could see it on a website or if Amazon offered an iOS widget that displayed the current Air Quality Score. That’d be neat! But at the moment, it takes a lot of tapping to get that information.
Very shortly after I set up the first Amazon Air Quality Monitor in my house, I bought a second one, so you can probably guess if I’d recommend it. It is a breeze to set up, pretty easy to get information out of, and very unobtrusive. And for the price, I don’t think you can find a better air quality monitor (or any air quality monitors!). It would be nice to be able to access the information a little more easily, and perhaps in some non-Amazon apps and devices but that’s a minor complaint.
Amazon does go to great lengths to point out that this thing doesn’t detect Radon or CO2, so it doesn’t replace those detectors. Nor is it meant to replace a carbon monoxide alarm. But if you just want to know the quality of your air and you have some Echos, I don’t think you’ll regret the $70.
You may regret having the knowledge, though, since now I worry even more than I did before about the air since I know so much about it.