Awair 2nd Edition Home Air Quality Monitor Review

What is the Awair?

The Awair 2nd Edition is a smart home device that measures temperature, humidity, CO2, VOC (volatile organic compounds), and dust levels.

All photos provided by  Awair

All photos provided by Awair

With the paired smartphone app, you can monitor readings over time, trigger smart devices (like thermostats), and get suggestions on how to improve your living environment.

Why Did I Want an Awair?

I wanted to monitor the temperature in my bedroom while sleeping.

I obsess about sleep, and I try to track all related variables.

Room temperature impacts sleep quality and I wanted to find my own optimal temperature.

There aren't many temperature sensors that are easy to set up and can connect with a smartphone.

I had my eye on an Awair Glow, but Awair was kind enough to send me their redesigned flagship product, the Awair 2nd Edition.

Awair 2nd Edition Details

The device is beautiful, and includes a display which can show any of the individual measurements, a summary, or a clock.

The primary display gives you levels for all measurements, and an aggregate score based on whether each level is within an acceptable range.

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It connects to the smartphone app to view data, and is simple to set up.

Using the app, you can integrate with other devices.  For example, you could automatically turn on an air purifier when dust levels are high.

The same can be done with heaters, air conditioners, humidifiers, de-humidifiers, etc.

The only requirement is you have a smart plug (or a smart device), and then you can set up triggers using IFTTT (If This, Then That).

For example, I managed to set up a trigger to turn on my space heater when the temperature drops too low (via a TP-Link smart plug).

With smart devices like a Nest Thermostat, it’s even easier, since no smart plug is required.

The Awair also has support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

It currently retails for $179 USD, while the Awair Glow retails for $99 USD.

How is the Awair 2nd Edition Different from the Original Awair?

The Awair was redesigned in 2018 with the following changes:

  • Enhanced fine dust readings (PM2.5).

  • A new button on the back to quickly cycle through each display.

  • Enhanced VOC (volatile organic compound) sensing.

  • USB-C for power.

  • Faster and simpler setup via the smartphone app.

How is the Awair 2nd Edition Different from the Awair Glow?

Aside from differences in form,

  • the Glow also functions as a smart plug, and

  • doesn’t include dust level readings.

It also has a small night light embedded.

Hardware - Pros

The Awair looks great.  The design aesthetic is very Apple-esque, and it fits well with most decors. It looks good enough to be a piece on its own.

It charges via USB-C, which makes it easy to adapt between power sources.

The air quality measurements are comprehensive, and seem accurate.  

Setup is very easy. It took about 5 minutes to get the device connected and app working.

You can tap the top twice to display the time.

Unlike the Glow, it can measure dust levels. This is important in areas where smog is an issue, and for those who suffer from respiratory issues, including asthma and allergies.

Notifications are easy to set up so you can proactively address problems.

Overall, the device does what it's supposed to do and looks great.

Hardware - Cons

I only have one real issue with the device, but I’ll address the most common complaints of others as well. Most of my concerns are around the software.

My main complaint is that there isn't a smart plug as part of the device.  

Would I want one if the Glow didn't have one? Doubtful. But the Glow does have one, and this device is near double the price.

Much of the appeal of this device is the ability to have it trigger other devices in your home based on various conditions. But many people don't have smart devices. So then people need to buy smart plugs.

If a user doesn't have those, they miss many benefits of the device. Having a plug embedded in the device gives people a head start on setting up triggers.

There are really only two other complaints I've ever seen that relate to the hardware.

The first is that the fan is too loud. This isn’t true, at least of the 2nd Edition.

I've had mine for over a month, and I've only ever heard the fan when it’s been in a confined, hot space and I put my ear next to it.

Some people have claimed that the temperature reading is a little high, but this doesn't seem true either.

Comparisons to other smart home products, like this comparison between the Awair and Foobot, have shown it to be consistent.

The verdict on the device itself: fantastic. I love the attention to detail on the design and the simplicity. It does its job well.

Software - Pros

The app, like the device itself, is well-designed. It's aesthetically pleasing, modern and clean. It’s also easy to navigate.

 
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Notifications for rising levels of each measurement are easy to set up.  

Integrations with other devices via IFTTT are also easy to set up (though you have to download the IFTTT app).

Weather is easily accessible, so you can see the surrounding conditions (likely to influence those within your home).

The graph screen, where various levels are tracked over time, is nice. The colour and design make it easy to interpret.

There’s a sleep option for display brightness. It automatically turns the display completely off when the surroundings dim, which is great.

However, improvement of the software could easily improve the overall experience.

Software - Cons

Adjusting Temperature & Humidity Ranges

My biggest complaint about the software is the lack of flexibility for "acceptable" levels.

Some measurements have objectively good or bad levels. Dust, VOCs, and CO2 all have limits that have been established by research.

The optimal range for temperature, however, according to the app/device, is 22-26C (72-79F).  That isn't true. Generally prescribed temperature for sleeping is 16-19C (60-67F).

I prefer something around 17C for sleeping. I like 21C for working.

As a result, my score in the temperature category is always poor. This drags down my overall score, which frustrates me to no end.

The same applies to humidity.  There are consequences when the humidity is too high or too low. Cold and flu symptoms and increased risk for toxic mold are the reasons cited within the app.

But the acceptable range of humidity within the app (which again, contributes to the overall score) is 40-50%. For someone in a highly variable climate (Montreal), that is a small range.

Health Canada recommends “above 30% in winter and making sure it doesn’t exceed 55% in summer”. This is much more flexible.

I want the ability to be able to specify my preferred range for both temperature and humidity within the app.

I believe this will be fixed sometime in the near future.

Data Visualization Flexibility

The historical data visualization looks great, and is easy to interpret. But it isn’t very flexible.

When your phone is vertical, you can view one day, from 0000 to 2400 (midnight to midnight). There is no adjustable start time, scrolling, or adjusting scales.

When your phone is horizontal, you get the option of a week, but again, no adjustment available for time scale or start time.

Being able to drag along the timeline and adjust the scale would be a big improvement.

Exporting Data

I want to compare with other sleep quality data. Data can be exported via the Developer API, which is great. It requires some technical knowledge, so may not be accessible for all. [tk revisit]

An easier method to export data, either via the app, or via a web dashboard, would make it easier for more people to use the data.

Developing a web application definitely complicates things, but I'd also like to see one. Data visualization is much easier within such a dashboard.

Improvement Tips

The app offers "tips" to help you improve readings.  I set the app to focus on sleep. Some tips are useful, others are not.

Here's an example of one that isn’t: "Cold? Try rigging a DIY "tent" over your bed. Your breathing will warm up the inside of the tent."

I don’t think users will be doing this.

Others are useful: "Conventional candles are made from paraffin, which omits VOCs. Use 100% soy and beeswax candles instead."  I’d like to see more of these.

Data Insights

There is a lot of value that could be extracted from the data.

What trends am I showing long-term, and how could I address those?

Example: “You were above optimal CO2 levels 86% of the time in the past month, consider adding some plants to the room.”

Even better? Give my results some context, either with my environment or with fellow users.

Example: “Your average CO2 levels for the past month were 2000 ppm, while other users in Montreal averaged 500 ppm. Consider adding some ventilation or plants to your room.”

Adding an "other users" average to the data visualization would be cool too, as the values tend to vary widely through the day (CO2 levels increasing as I sleep, for example), and I’d like to see how I compare to others.

Other Suggestions

There are typically a couple other complaints from users.

One is that there isn't any HomeKit support. This could be added in future.

The other is the "ugh, what do you want me to do" feeling that users have when they have a poor score for extended periods of time.

I can sympathize with that. Solving this requires two things:

  • a) offering some flexibility on ideal ranges for temperature and humidity and

  • b) giving better tips based on individual data, as mentioned above.

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Conclusion

The Awair is a beautiful device, and along with the app, offers rich data and a good experience.

The software could use some improvement, but all my correspondence with the team indicates it will keep progressing.

I've made changes as a result of having the device; I added some plants to my room and I'm now much more conscious of ventilation. I may add a dehumidifier soon too.

For the technically-minded, access via the API makes data analysis possible, so you can compare with data from other sources (like sleep trackers).

I'd love to work towards improving my long-term overall score. But it's currently dragged down by temperature/humidity, and I'm not going to change those just to fit the app preferences. This means I give up on improving my overall score. This should change soon.

The price of the Awair can be intimidating, but the flexibility of the new hardware will allow the software to catch up in the future.

If you’re planning on adding smart technology to your home, or have already, I’d look at the Awair 2nd Edition as an investment whose functionality will grow over time.

If you’re new to the smart technology world, I'd buy the Glow, which has most of the same features, and gives you a smart plug as well.

I’m looking forward to having the Awair 2nd Edition serve as the hub for improving my environment at home.

And my ideal sleep temperature?

I’ll have to wait a little while to figure that out, but I have learned that high humidity is a sure route to a poor sleep.

That alone has been worth the investment.