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Field evaluation of a low-cost indoor air quality monitor to quantify exposure to pollutants in residential environments

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>9/05/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Sensors and Sensor Systems
Issue number1
Volume7
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)373-388
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Measurements of temporal and spatial changes to indoor contaminant concentrations are vital to understanding pollution characteristics. Whilst scientific instruments provide high temporal resolution of indoor pollutants, their cost and complexity make them unfeasible for large-scale projects. Low-cost monitors offer an opportunity to collect high-density temporal and spatial data in a broader range of households.

This paper presents a user study to assess the precision, accuracy, and usability of a low-cost indoor air quality monitor in a residential environment to collect data about the indoor pollution. Temperature, relative humidity, total volatile organic compounds (tVOC), carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents, and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) data were measured with five low-cost (“Foobot”) monitors and were compared with data from other monitors reported to be scientifically validated.

The study found a significant agreement between the instruments with regard to temperature, relative humidity, total volatile organic compounds, and fine particulate matter data. Foobot CO2 equivalent was found to provide misleading CO2 levels as indicators of ventilation. Calibration equations were derived for tVOC, CO2, and PM2.5 to improve sensors’ accuracy. The data were analysed based on the percentage of time pollutant levels that exceeded WHO thresholds.

The performance of low-cost monitors to measure total volatile organic compounds and particulate matter 2.5 μm has not been properly addressed. The findings suggest that Foobot is sufficiently accurate for identifying high pollutant exposures with potential health risks and for providing data at high granularity and good potential for user or scientific applications due to remote data retrieval. It may also be well suited to remote and larger-scale studies in quantifying exposure to pollutants.