Airthings, the Norway-based tech company, has introduced the Wave Plus smart radon, CO2 and TVOC detector into the UK market.
Air Quality Monitor
We’re all much more aware of the risks of poor air quality these days so monitors like this are becoming of interest to many.
The Wave Plus is a 12cm diameter x 3.6 cm high smoke-detector-look-alike that’s powered by batteries and can be mounted on the wall, ceiling, or a flat surface. A mounting screw is included and the magnetic battery cover cleverly doubles as the bracket.
Its 6 built-in sensors measure CO2, TVOCs (total volatile organic compounds), temperature, humidity, air pressure and the star of the show, Radon.
What sets the Wave Plus unit apart from similar sensors is that ability to measure Radon, a radioactive element which under normal conditions is a gas and easily inhaled. According to Wikipedia that means it’s “the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking”.
Levels of the gas depend on your local geology and can fluctuate around atmospheric conditions too. You can check out a UK Radon Map for an idea of levels in your area and Airthings is building its own map too.
The Wave Plus uses Bluetooth Low Energy to fire off its measurements across to your mobile app, and from there, up to the Cloud. Not having a power hungry Wi-Fi chip on board means it can be battery powered and Airthings say the 2 AA cells (included) should provide around 16 months of use before they need to be replaced.
However, not having WiFi built-in also means that you can’t easily check on the device when you are away from home as it only updates when your phone is within Bluetooth range. We asked Airthings if there’s anyway around this and they told us…
You can setup a phone or a table with the app running in foreground. This will sync data to Airthings cloud and make sure you are up to data where you are.
It’s not very convenient having to leave your iPad or similar at home acting as a Bluetooth to WiFi bridge though. Then we noticed their FAQ also mentions the on board ‘Airthings SmartLink’ and we asked the company what this was…
Airthings SmartLink is a protocol for long-range wireless communication, developed by Airthings. It is based on the Sub-1 Ghz communication protocol and it is designed for long-range robust connectivity. It connects your device to our Hub which makes your data available remotely. However, it is not available to consumers right now.
So it sounds like a hub may be available in the future that will bridge this unit to WiFi.
On the integration side, the Wave Plus can be voice control by Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
In addition it can connect to IFTTT for some useful recipes and notifications too.
Measurements are recorded every 5 minutes for each sensor, except for Radon which is logged once every hour. If you are beside the unit then you can wave your hand in its vicinity and the LED light ring on top will glow briefly in Green, Amber or Red in a traffic light system to show your air quality.
Most users will look at their date from the free Airthings mobile apps (Android or iOS). The app feels a bit light on detail though and is a little frustrating because you can’t see the time that peak readings occur on the graphs.
In addition to the mobile apps a free web dashboard is also provided for a more detailed look at your data and this offers a much more satisfying experience. Hovering your mouse on the graphs provides the day, date, time and measurements for that point.
One of the most significant things we found in the first week was the build up of CO2 in our bedroom during the night.
In the first few days we also noticed the VOC detector mostly complained when something was sprayed in the room with the largest red spikes usually following an air freshener or similar.
According to Airthings the average global outdoor radon level ranges between 5-15 Bq/m3 and you can read more about what Radon levels mean in this blog post.
A great feature is the ability to export your sensor readings to CSV file (actually, semi-colon delimited). AT tell us there’s no limit to how far back you can go, so you can download all your readings right back to the start. Once you have all your data you are free to analyse and graph it any way you like.
Although the Airthings Wave Plus is an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) detector, the dashboard also shows an outside air quality score based on your location. You can choose to manually locate your unit on the map so it doesn’t give away the exact address of your home.
Airthings told us the longer the sensor is installed, the more accurate your readings become..
Airthings radon detectors are designed to monitor your long-term exposure to radon. Being able to monitor your radon levels continuously gives you a much better understanding of how much you are exposed, and what your risks are, compared to a two-day test. Radon fluctuates a lot even throughout the day, from building to building in the same area, and even from room to room in a house. This means that only way for you to know if radon is a real threat is to have a detector that continuously monitors your radon levels, and helps you make sense of these inevitable fluctuations.
Some Amazon reviewers appear to have had problems with this unit, particularly with firmware updates. However this issue seems to have been resolved as our unit upgraded to new firmware about 2 weeks in flawlessly. We’ve also seen several app updates in the month that we’ve had the unit too so development seems pretty active.
If there was a carbon monoxide sensor built-in to this unit then it might be the only air monitor anyone would ever need. If you don’t need all 6 sensors of the Wave Plus and are just concerned with Radon then the standard Wave offers a considerable saving.
For now though, if you want one of the most feature rich smart home air quality monitors around then look no further than the Airthings Wave Plus.
AIR QUALITY – SENSOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Sensor sampling interval: 5 minute
- Sensor Resolution:
- Temperature ± 0.1°F (0.1° C)
- Humidity ± 1%
- Pressure ± 0.15hPa
- Settling time:
- TVOC ~ 7 days
- CO2 ~ 7 days
- CO2 details:
- NDIR Sensor (Non-Dispersive Infra-Red)
- Measurement range 400–5000 ppm
- Non condensing 0 – 85%RH
- Optimum Accuracy ±30ppm ±3% within 15 – 35°C (60 – 95°F) and 0 – 80%RH can be reached after multiple settling cycles on locations with natural indoor CO2 fluctuations
RADON SENSOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Radon sampling: Passive diffusion chamber
- Detection method: Alpha spectrometry
- Measurement range: 0 – 500 pCi/L
- After 7 days: σ ~ 10 % at 5 pCi/L
- After 2 months: σ ~ 5 % at 5 pCi/L