Qualities that define a top-tier indoor air quality monitoring system

The gold standard: Qualities that define a top-tier indoor air quality monitoring system

There are no globally accepted parameters that indoor air quality (IAQ) monitors must meet. In the absence of international or nationally enforced IAQ standards, it can be difficult to identify the best indoor air quality monitoring system.

As a business owner, homeowner, real estate developer, or building manager, it’s up to you to make the right choices. You must decide how many and which type of IAQ monitors you need. You also need to choose the best data platforms to maintain and analyse trends in your IAQ data. This is key to making appropriate decisions for building occupants’ health, safety, and comfort.

What makes the best indoor air quality monitoring system?

This guide explores the defining features of the best indoor air quality monitoring systems. Not every top-quality IAQ device will tick all these boxes, but the best indoor air quality monitor will get awfully close. So, without further ado, here’s what constitutes the gold standard in indoor air quality monitoring systems:

The number of monitors. You have a large space to maintain – let’s say, a home with multiple rooms, an entire building including its common spaces, or even a corporate campus with multiple buildings. Surely, even if it’s the very best indoor air quality monitor, one device can’t do the whole job. The size and the layout of the space will determine how many monitors you will need. The best indoor air quality monitoring system will capture a holistic picture of air quality throughout the house, building, or campus. 

Placement of IAQ sensors. Even if you’ve got an adequate number of IAQ monitors installed in the space, where they’re placed makes a big difference. The best indoor air quality monitoring system will measure representative samples of the area it’s meant to cover. This means that monitors will ideally be placed in all the places people might occupy. They will also be placed away from outlets that release air from the building to the outdoors. Additionally, locations like kitchens, bathrooms, and rooms with fireplaces should have well-placed sensors, as the air quality in such rooms can change drastically in very short periods of time.

The number and types of sensors. Every indoor air quality monitoring system comprises one or more sensors designed to track certain pollutants and environmental parameters. These could be sensors for PM2.5, PM10, CO2, VOCs, temperature, and/or relative humidity. The best indoor air quality monitoring system will have sensors for as many such parameters as possible. This will help you keep track of multiple threats to indoor environmental quality and people’s health.

Accuracy. Accuracy is easily the primary factor to consider when investing in an air quality monitoring system. Determining the accuracy of the sensors in your IAQ monitor may require some additional research. IAQ monitoring device companies may offer accuracy data when selling you their product. If they don’t, you can always look up third-party tests assessing how on-point a particular monitor is. If there is no data available about the monitor as a whole, you can research accuracy test data for the particular sensors used in the device.

Ease and speed of sensor calibration. With use, the sensors of all air quality monitors begin to deteriorate and drift from accurate readings. This is an unavoidable reality of owning and managing an IAQ device. When your device’s readings become inaccurate, it means it’s time for you to recalibrate its sensors. Traditionally, such recalibration is done manually, requiring you to employ the services of a technician or other HVAC professional. Nowadays, you also have the option of modular cartridge type sensors that can be replaced by the user.

This is the best option because it eliminates many of the logistical challenges involved in manual recalibration. Additionally, since replaceable sensors can be removed and swapped out in seconds, you don’t lose air quality data for the time spent in recalibration. Most crucially, replaceable sensors offer the advantage of flexibility: the ease of adding sensors allows you to future-proof your investment by adding new parameters as and when needed.

Connectivity, data management, and security. The best indoor air quality monitoring systems assess the quality of your air, but what do they do with the information that they gather? IAQ monitors need to either store air quality data or transfer the data to a location that can store it. This data should be available for you to observe, assess, and identify trends. It’s also critical that this data is managed securely.

What does all of this mean? It means that the best indoor air quality monitoring system will have connectivity via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or some other mechanism. It will be accompanied by a data platform or dashboard that will help you manage and display your space’s IAQ data. And all of these systems and connections should be secure, complying with stringent data security standards and regularly passing third-party penetration tests.

Reliable power source. If an IAQ solution is to be reliable, it needs a reliable power supply. This can be achieved via either a built-in battery (with a sufficiently long life of at least 8 hours), direct wiring, power over ethernet, or a combination of these approaches. If your indoor air quality monitoring system relies on direct wiring alone, ensure that you have a backup plan in case of power failures.

Certifications. As you hunt for the best indoor air quality monitoring system, your primary concern is likely the health of the building occupants. In addition to this, however, good quality and user-friendly IAQ monitors fulfil another requirement: transparency and certification.

When you have the right indoor air quality monitoring system in place, you can display the building’s IAQ levels in common spaces to give building occupants confidence that their indoor environment is clean and safe. Accurately understanding your building’s air quality can also help you achieve green building certifications. Certifications like RESET, WELL, LEED, Fitwel, UL Verified Healthy Buildings, and Living Building Challenge increase the perception and market value of your building, helping you establish yourself as a conscientious employer or building manager.

A parting word

When you invest in an air quality monitoring system, you are not investing in only pieces of hardware. You are investing in the sensors that they comprise, in the data platforms that they are compatible with, and in a relationship with the company selling you the system. In short, you are investing in systems, processes, and people that will ideally stand the test of time. You must choose wisely.

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