One of the only gains from all this Covid-19 craziness is the noticeable drop in pollution in major cities around the world as fewer residents took to the streets. Of course, this is turning back as many of these cities have been re-opening, but the change was quite noticeable while it was there. This has raised a lot of awareness on how important air quality really is and the effects it has on your health.
The popularity surrounding the ability to monitor your air didn’t start there though. It has been a growing interest as smart home technologies continue to expand to cover every possible interest within your home. Air quality was a major win as more companies develop devices that can accomplish these measurements using small easy-to-place devices, allowing you to create all sorts of scenes to respond to dangerous situations. With what began with smoke and then CO2, now extends to many other things that can affect your health.
This is where devices like Airthings Wave Mini come along. An air quality sensor the size of a hockey puck that can scan the air for VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that collect within your home and alert you when levels get too high. VOCs come from many sources like paint, new furniture or products, cleaning products, cooking, and more.
For example, if you ever bought a memory foam pillow (or similar product), you’d notice the strong smell it gives off. A small that its instructions would explain to let it air out for a number of days before using it (preferably in an area with good air circulation). That obnoxious smell that needs airing is actually VOCs that are polluting the air of your home. A high enough level can cause various health problems, from something as similar to a headache to as serious as a disease.
It’s pretty simple to set up, although it does take a number of days (up to 7) to get a proper measurement for it to be able to find a normal average (calibration).
To start off, you download the app and it will run you through various screens that explain the dangers that (or can) surround you every day (great marketing there), Eventually, it comes to a screen that allows you to add the device. At this point, the device should be plugged into a power source and ready to pair. It finishes getting everything sorted and drops you into the main screen that shows the stats of the room and that you are in day one of seven for calibration.
The available data is simple, covering TVOC (Total VOCs), humidity, and room temperature. All the information is neatly displayed on the screen and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand any of it. You get a colorful ring within the center that reflects the current status of the area with green showing everything is fine, yellow for when levels are a little high, and red when it is time to open windows and be concerned about the air within your home. All of this with a focus on VOCs more than anything else.
Clicking on the individual readouts will bring you to a historical chart and more information. You can click to learn more about VOCs and change a few settings of the device (like the name of it in case you move it to a new location).
There isn’t much more than that within the app. There are no custom notifications or scenes. You do have access to an online dashboard on their website, but it is mostly just a repeat of everything you get within the app.
If you don’t want to play with the app, you can also quickly wave your hand in front of the device as it has a small motion sensor. This will trigger an LED on the front that represents the same color theme of the ring within the app (green, yellow, or red).
As mentioned, it takes 7 days for it to fully calibrate and get familiar with the environment. Once it does, you’ll find the measurements get more accurate. We watched it crunch numbers as it worked its way through the 7 days.
- Day One: TVOC 50-77, Humidity 31%, Temp 77 (humidity and temp accurate with -/+ 1 digit). TVOC seemed high at times but then fall back down. Likely part of the calibration.
- Day Two: TVOC 61, Temp/Humidity is still averaging -/+ 1
- Day Five: TVOC 131, Temp/Humidity still holding accurate. Recently cooked some steak causing a strong aroma throughout the area, and the value rose to this value during this period within the day, eventually coming done later on as the air circulated.
- Day Seven: TVOC Average = 78.
So in the end, the temperature and humidity were holding quite well with very little to no margin of error. We used two different devices within the same space to compare the numbers. We didn’t have a way of comparing TVOC numbers since the other devices we have, measure on a different scale based on particles in the air and their size. Based on the accuracy of the other two values, our expectations lean toward a dependable reading, especially since the number did climb or lower as expected based on various activities/variables within the environment.
It’s a simple device. It doesn’t detect radon or CO2, just VOCs. To expand to other things, you have to buy into their Wave Plus device. This leads us to the next topic of third-party integration.
It is a bit expensive for having mostly poor smart capabilities when it comes to interaction with Alexa, Google, or IFTTT. It supports adding your Airthings account to these services, but the interaction mostly only supports radon or CO2 levels, which this device does not. So they can see the account, but you can’t seem to do anything with the Wave Mini outside of knowing that it is there.
- Alexa is supported. You have to add the skill manually from the Alexa app. However, it leads to “Sorry, the device in your office does not measure radon” — Alexa only allows to check for radon levels or to list rooms (devices). This requires the Wave Plus to get any use out of Alexa.
- IFTTT is supported. You have to link your Airthings account on IFTTT’s website or app. However, it doesn’t really support this model quite well just yet. Most of the recipes there are linked to radon and CO2 levels which, once again, requires the Wave Plus. Thankfully, there are recipes for humidity and temperature, although just a few. So you will likely be creating your own for other device interactions.
So we were not too impressed by anything here. They advertise in the instructions, box and everywhere, that it supports these services. However, in the end, it is just a tease to get you to buy the more expensive model mostly. If you are looking to make your Philips Hue lights blink when the TVOC level gets too high, think again. However, if it gets too dry in the area, then you can pull it off.
Given that, they may be planning on adding support later on. This just isn’t announced within any of these places where support is mentioned (not good marketing).
Battery life is terrific, giving you 2 to 3 years’ worth of power before having to swap out the batteries. This heavily depends on the type of batteries that you use. So if you opt for generic no-name batteries, you will likely see less. However, if you go with Energizer Industrial or Duracell ProCell, or Quantum batteries, you’ll likely get the three years (or more maybe).
This makes for an interesting device to have within your home when you are looking to better understand the quality of your environment and how the many variables within it can have an effect on the air. It makes it easy to find a balanced humidity level and it even walks you through what’s good or bad. It is incredibly simple to use when it comes to finding the numbers or color-themed level of air quality as a quick value. They just need to work on the smart integration so that it can integrate into the rest of your smart home setup easily. It would be nice if other devices can respond if the TVOC level gets too high (we didn’t find any way to do this). Maybe kick on the ceiling fans or the A/C to help move air around. You can interact with the A/C or heater based on temperature values, or trigger a smart plug that has a humidifier plugged into it if it gets too dry, all using IFTTT. But Alexa is out, and so is TVOC triggers. It may be better to just go with their Plus model, else there are similar “simple” air quality devices at this price or less that can directly interact with third-party services and devices just fine (for all readable measurements/features). It has a lot of promise. It just needs improvement in these areas to get there. This makes it feel a little in the beta stages, but it is still a neat device. Again, a lot of potential, which shouldn’t be hard for them to expand upon.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- Sensor sampling interval: 5 minutes
- Sensor Resolution / Accuracy:
- Temperature: 0.1 / ±1 °C/F
- Humidity: 1 / ±3 %
- Settling time:
- TVOC ~7 days
- Operational Environment: 4°C to 40°C (39°F to 104°F)
- Power: 3 x AA alkaline batteries
- Wireless: Bluetooth & SmartLink
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.
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