Information is in the air
More and more information can be obtained in real time from the air we breathe. Indoor and outdoor weather and air quality data can be particularly useful for our comfort and quality of life and even to avoid hazards such as fires or diseases associated with poor air quality (asthma and other respiratory illnesses or even cancer). On the other hand, devices are becoming smarter and smarter on how they deal with such data and can provide fantastic features. These sensors come in all sizes and shapes with a great tendency for battery powered devices and devices that can be used to monitor indoors and outdoors.
At the end of the day, using the appropriate device, you’ll be able to understand much better the quality of your home environment and plan on how you’ll react to it. You’ll be able to understand how your heating is impacting your inside temperature, how sunlight is helping warm up your house, or how blinds are helping you cool it down, how you can change the way you air out your house, how you manage smoke from fireplaces and stoves and even the kind of products you use for cleaning.
Information is in the air, and soon, with these devices it will also be in the plams of your hands.
In this comparison we review 6 different weather and air quality sensor devices. Some have been born as popular IndieGogo projects (Canary and Birdi), others have made a brand-name in the recent years (NetAtmo and Aeotec), others are less well known (Cube Sensors) and others even are maker community based initiatives (Air Quality Egg).
Canary is your one stop shop for home security with a great camera sees an entire room and adjacent ones without space for missing almost anything. Canary features intelligent learning algorithms that can learn when you leave and arrive at home so it can arm and disarm on its’ own. In the field of monitoring, Canary has a very competent air quality sensor to add to a very diverse array of other sensors (temperature, humidity, motion, light, sound). The only down sides might be the cost and that this Canary can’t fly outdoors to keep an eye on your weather outside, it’s indoors only.
Birdi is a very interesting smoke alarm. Battery powered but with WiFi connectivity, Birdi not only keeps an eye out to detect any smoke from a possible fire but also offers very compreenhensive monitoring of your indoor air quality. The units are still in the final stages of production well before shipping.
NetAtmo is one of the best known brand names in smart phone weather stations. With a pair of sensors, one for outdoor readings and another for indoor readings, NetAtmo combines the power of a simple personal weather station with the power of an indoor environment monitor with simple air quality tracking (through CO2). The design is very sleek and the app keeps your data in the cloud forever for free.
Cube Sensors can be your environmental monitors in each and every room. An exclusive design with customization options help deliver an item that, without any particular strengths in air quality analysis or other features like other devices analysed have, can still offer a nice pack of sensor strength.
The Air Quality Egg was potentially for us one of the most interesting projects as it’s born from the makers community from a desire to create a network of air quality control devices. It’s based on community hardware and sensors and doesn’t benefit from some advantages of mass-production. Still this is an interesting option if you’d love spending hours around it, enhancing it and talking about it with other community members.
Aeotec Z-Wave Multi-sensor is a sleek multi-function sensor to be used in Z-Wave networks, meaning you’ll have to setup your Z-Wave network. Also meaning you’ll be able to use this one as an intrusion and presence detector and hook it up, not only to a remote app for notifications, but also to local actuators like sirens, lights, door locks, etc. It’s extremely cheap when compared to the other sensors and can work indoors or outdoors. It’s wall mountable and, even without air-quality sensors, offers a nice array of data (temperature, humidity, light) although without the higher precision of the other devices. It’s the perfect unit to integrate with others, helping you set your heating, your shutters, blinds and dim up or down your exterior and interior lighting.
Sometimes it’s hard to find out details about these beauties, so we jam packed all the relevant information we juiced out of these ones into a pretty neat table below. Also check further below for our final verdict.
|Canary||Birdi||NetAtmo||Cube Sensor||Air Quality Egg||Aeotec Z-Wave Multisensor|
|Includes Video Camera|
|Outdoor Support||Indoor and outdoor modules||IP43|
|Temperature sensor||+- 0.3°C / +- 0.5°F||Indoor and outdoor +- 0.3°C / +- 0.54°F|
|Humidity sensor||Indoor and outdoor 0-100%, +-3%||20-90% +/-5%|
|CO||Only qualitative air quality|
|Particles||2.5 and 10 PM|
|Motion sensor||120º 16-33 ft 5-10m|
|Light sensor||0-1000 lux|
|Android App||4.0+||4.0+||In Z-Wave controller|
|iOS App||iOS7+||iPhone 4+||In Z-Wave controller|
|Windows App||8.0+||In Z-Wave controller|
|Web App||In Z-Wave controller|
|Power Source||USB||Batteries||USB for indoor module|
Batteries for outdoor module
|USB on cubes, Wall Adapter on base station||Wall plugs Outdoor module and Base station||USB or Battery|
|Power Consumption||Outdoor < 0,001 W/h|
|Battery||AA batteries||2 AAA batteries for outdoor module (1 year duration)|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n Base station, cubes use Zigbee|
|API||Cloud||OpenAPI||IFTTT||Yes||Xively + API||Z-Wave|
|Evaluation||4 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||2 / 5||2 / 5||4 / 5|
|Normal Price||$249||$119||$299 for 2 cubes + base station||$185||$39.95|
|Price|| $249 at Amazon|
|Not yet available|| from $159.99|
in this one comparison there is no clear winner, there are four good models that can be best used in different scenarios.
If you want to deploy a video-based indoors security system that also offers detailed air quality readings on your entire home you should get one or more Canary units. You’ll be able to monitor your home environment in detail and even avoid respiratory diseases and others by reacting to Canary’s air quality warnings. Check our Project – deploying indoors security and monitoring (coming soon).
If you want to keep inside a budget, don’t want to control air quality but want to control temperature, humidity, lighting and detect motion inside and outside your home you’re better off deploying your Z-Wave network and using Aeotec Z-Wave 4in1 Multisensors that come at a great price. This unit can also be used for security purposes, detecting intruders and for automatically controlling lighting scenes within a Z-Wave network of control devices. See our Z-Wave automation starter Pack project for more details (coming soon).
If, on the other hand, you don’t want to detect motion nor see video from your environmental monitoring device you can choose one of the other two good units.
If you’re thinking of a smoke detector and the most important for you to control air quality is in the kitchen, go ahead and pre-order a Birdi (coming soon).
Finally, if you want to control outdoor weather more precisely than the Z-Wave sensor will allow and also want to do some air quality control indoors (using CO2) then you’re better off with the popular, simple and beautiful NetAtmo weather station.
To sum up, Canary and Aeotec Z-Wave sensor are more versatile devices that will also help you on other fields like home security and automation. On the simpler side NetAtmo is one of the simplest choices for weather control and compares better with more expensive and complete weather stations and Birdi is your solution if you want a smoke alarm. Any of the four will give you an interesting level of environmental control.
The other two solutions, Cube Sensors and Air Quality Egg, even with some interesting particularities, fail by having less interesting sensors than Canary or Birdi and with more complex architectures and at a more expensive price level fail to offer important features like Wi-Fi support in the Air Quality Egg or a more detailled air quality sensor for the Cube Sensors.