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Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best air quality monitors

After a stressful day at work or school, it’s nice to return home to a relaxing space. So the last thing you want awaiting you at home is polluted air. A home with good indoor air quality (IAQ) can help you be healthier and more comfortable.

With an air quality monitor, you can continuously measure the IAQ in your home, office, or car. Some monitors are even able to filter the air. We've written this handy shopping guide to help you choose the air quality monitor that's right for your situation, and we've included some of our favorite models if you want to get right to shopping.

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Some pollutant particles are large enough to be easily visible, such as dust and smoke. Others are extremely small, meaning you cannot see them.

Potential pollutants

An air quality monitor must be able to check the air for different kinds of pollutants. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) are two biggies, but there are others as well. Before you purchase an air quality monitor, read the product specs to make sure it will detect the substances you want it to be able to detect. Below are some of the most significant.

CO2 and CO

CO2 occurs in the air naturally, but it becomes dangerous if it reaches high levels. CO2 may build up from a malfunctioning home heating system. CO appears in the air after fuel burns in an appliance or vehicle. As you probably know, CO has a notorious reputation for being a deadly invisible gas.

An air quality monitor should measure the CO2 or CO in terms of parts per million. If you discover you have a buildup, you’ll want to look into proper ventilation and other professional-grade solutions right away.

Expert tip
Calibration is key for accuracy. Follow all instructions clearly to get the best results from your air quality monitor.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Particulate matter

Particulate matter, or PM, is a term that refers to particles that are floating in the air. Items like dust, pollen, mold, and smoke particles fit under the PM umbrella. PM is typically thought to be any particle measuring between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10). Particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers are labeled PM2.5. (A micrometer is equal to 0.001 millimeters or about 0.00004 inches.) Some air filters are limited to removing only PM10 particles from the air. Others are able to filter PM2.5 particles.

Cooking, smoking cigarettes, and using a vacuum cleaner with a malfunctioning filter can all cause PM levels to rise.

Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are very harmful to humans. These chemicals aren’t found naturally in the air. Vapors from items like paints, gasoline, and other chemicals create VOCs. An air quality monitor will measure VOCs in parts per billion (PPB).


Radon gas can cause cancer in humans if it builds up over time. Because it’s odorless and colorless, radon is especially dangerous. It exists in soil and can seep into the home through pores in the foundation. Notably, not all air quality monitors can detect radon. Some people purchase radon test kits to check for a buildup of radon in the home.

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Expert tip
Support better quality air by doing the following: vacuum often, change HVAC air filters every 3 months, and use a humidifier or purifier. 
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert


Air quality monitors come in different shapes and sizes, and there are many different features available. The following is a partial list. Not all products have all of these features. For example, some air quality monitors are not smart machines.

Display screen

A display screen makes it easier to read IAQ data. Some air quality monitors have a display screen, but others have only an indicator light.


Some air quality monitors do more than measure pollutants in the air. They also have a built-in filter that can help clean your air.


An IAQ monitor may plug into a power outlet or run on battery power.


Some air quality monitors are made to be carried with you. Some are handheld units; some can be clipped to clothing. Other air quality monitors are larger and meant to remain in one place.

Smart features

Some air quality monitors can connect with your WiFi network and communicate with other smart devices in your network. If you have a machine of this kind, you may appreciate the ability to track your air quality readings through a smartphone app.

Air quality monitor prices

You could spend anywhere from $30 to $500 on an air quality monitor. That’s a huge price range, so it can be a little difficult to figure out what you want to spend.


Basic air quality monitors usually carry a price tag between $30 and $100. These units are limited in size and often have no display screen. You may find some smart monitors in this price range, as not having a display screen keeps the price down.


Monitors in the $100 to $250 price range may have a display screen for convenience. Some of these units include air purifying capabilities, but they’re usually handheld units and only made to filter a car or single room.


Air quality monitors that cost more than $250 tend to be larger units. They monitor air quality, but many can also can clean the air in a large room or office. Some of these units can connect to your home WiFi network, giving you easy access to data.


If you think your home is completely clean and you don’t need an IAQ monitor, think again. We’ve compiled a list of reasons the EPA gives for why people should monitor the air quality in the home.

  • Poor air quality leads to poor health. Certain pollutants inside the home may cause immediate health problems. Some of these problems include eye irritation, coughing, and headaches. However, these health issues also may be caused by common viruses. Measuring the air quality will help you determine the source of the problems.

  • Monitor the air to avoid serious health risks. Exposure to certain pollutants in the air may cause problems like cancer, heart disease, or respiratory disease over time. It can be several years before you experience the health problems from these pollutants, though. Having an air quality monitor allows you to find these pollutants and remove them before they cause long-term issues.

  • Know the best ways to avoid air quality problems. Certain activities can cause air quality issues. Smoking, using pesticides, painting, and using paint strippers can introduce VOCs into the air. Some people are more sensitive to VOCs than others, so use these chemicals sparingly and only when needed.

  • Maintain adequate ventilation. One of the most common causes of poor IAQ is inadequate ventilation. Having a good ventilation system brings fresh air inside and circulates pollutants outside.
  • Keep humidity in check. If the humidity level in the home surpasses 50%, you could end up with airborne mold. This is a common problem in the summer in high-humidity regions.
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An air quality monitor made for residential use may measure items like particles, chemical vapors, and dangerous gases in the air. If you’re looking to eliminate the risk of certain high-risk pollutants (radon, CO, VOCs, etc.), read the specs before buying to make the machine will track them.


Q. What are some common air pollutants found in the home?

A. Smoke and combustion pollutants are commonly found inside a house. Cigarettes and cigars can cause poor air quality. If appliances that burn natural gas or wood are not properly ventilated, they can pollute the air, too. Gas stoves, water heaters, and ovens all need proper ventilation systems.

Expert tip
A wall mount of monitors is best, as floors and ceilings may not be indicative of the actual environment.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Q. Are there some easy ways to improve my home’s air quality?

A. The easiest way to make an immediate change in the air quality of your home is to place a fresh air filter in your heating and cooling system. Dirty filters don’t clean the air passing through the system, leaving pollutants to linger in the air. Another option is to ensure that the humidity levels in your home’s air remain between 30% and 50%. Removing dust and vacuuming rugs regularly helps, too.

Q. Should I get a handheld air quality monitor or a stationary monitor?

A. Both designs offer some benefits. A handheld air quality monitor allows you to test the IAQ in a remote part of your home. Directly testing certain rooms can help you find a problem quickly. A stationary monitor works well for passive testing. It can monitor the air for pollutants without specific intervention from the homeowner.

Q. Will I have to calibrate the air quality monitor?

A. To continue working properly, air quality monitors do require calibration from time to time. Some units must be calibrated before you use them for the first time. Others need to be calibrated on a regular basis. Although calibration can be a hassle with some units, it’s an important part of air quality monitor maintenance.

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