UPDATE January 4, 2016: Here’s a great review article about PM2.5 monitors: click here; they praise the Laser Egg but also discuss its limitations.
I’ve mentioned often that I feel it’s important for people who use air purifiers to make sure your investments are working well. For me, this means always keeping your indoor air PM2.5 concentration under 10 ug/m3 (read my explanation here). The only way to know this is to have a PM2.5 monitor to check your air. We can spend so much money on air purifier machines — but how are we sure they’re on the correct speeds, or in the best part of the room, or that the filters aren’t clogged and need to be replaced early? And how do you know if you need to increase their speed when the AQI is airpocalyptic?
You certainly can’t rely on the built-in PM2.5 sensors that many air purifiers have, as the vast majority I’ve seen are inaccurate and basically useless. No, the answer has always been simple — and complicated. You’ve always needed to buy a separate PM2.5 monitor, but the best ones are wildly expensive. For a few years I’ve been using a popular, more economical choice from America called Dylos, but their data was uncommonly difficult to download and convert to something we layman could understand.
Now, finally, we’re starting to see some reasonable options, and I’m thinking specifically of the new Laser Egg, an air quality monitor from Beijing-based environmental company Origins, set up by an expat couple. Many of you are already using this Laser Egg, which is available for a wonderfully reasonable price of 499 RMB. I’ve been testing a few of these Eggs for a few weeks, and I can finally say that consumers now have a real option for testing your air at home (or work, or schools, etc etc).
I have some highlights about this Laser Egg:
- The Egg already has saved me tens of thousands of RMB in air purifier costs, as I’ve recently replaced my home’s air purifiers with a far more economical machine (the Xiaomi), and the Laser Egg data proves that these new machines are very effective. (I will blog about this soon).
- Their app (Breathing Space) is very useful, as you can sync all of your Eggs to your home wifi, and you can access their data anytime, anywhere in the world.
- The app also shows the local outdoor air, so you can immediately compare indoor versus outdoor air. Very useful.
- You can choose to monitor the AQI from China or from the USA, or even better, the raw concentration of ug/m3. I always use concentration because I can quickly glance and see if it’s under 10 or not. Plus it’s the most evidenced based, as 10 ug/m3 is the official recommendation by the World Health Organization, and then you don’t have to deal with the politics of AQIs, which are totally different in every country.
- You can also use the app to export the data to your email, and create snazzy Excel graphs like the one below. For example, the Egg’s weekly data spreadsheet has 5-minute interval data on PM2.5, PM10, humidity and temperature. Data geeks like myself will love it.
- Its battery charges by USB so you can unplug and stuff in your bag and walk around town with it, checking out your favorite stores and also the outdoor air anywhere.
- You can keep it on 24/7, in sleep mode, and always access the data via your app or the screen.
- The app also can send you instant messages warning you if your air is suddenly getting worse. For example, I was at work and got a cell phone pop-up warning that my front room air was worsening, which I confirmed on the app’s graphics. I called my wife at home and she realized that all our Xiaomi purifiers had been shut off after a power outage. I turned them all back on (using another app from my air purifier), and sitting in my office I watched the app to see my home’s PM2.5 improving minute by minute. How cool is that?
- You can also rig it to check pollution masks, sort of. See the video I made below, using the Laser Egg to test an incredible new pollution mask I’m helping to design, called Freeair. It’s a battery-powered outdoor pollution mask that delivers pure air via a tiny fan and an astonishing new filter, classified ULPA (Ultra-Low Particulate Air), far superior to N95, N99 or HEPA filters. It filters basically 100% of PM2.5 and also filters much smaller ultrafine particles by 99.99999%. As you see in the video, literally every molecule of pollution is filtered out. You’ll definitely be hearing more about Freeair soon.
- You can quickly check for leaks around doors and windows. You all have already sealed your windows and doors with the very inexpensive rubber strips, yes? If not, read this and then come back. Anyway, one horrible night with AQI over 400 I noticed from the Laser Egg app that my baby’s bedroom PM2.5 was strangely high. And sure enough, the rubber sealing was coming off a part of a window. I resealed it, and voila! Happy baby.
- The Laser Egg looks pretty cool, actually.
So how reliable is the Laser Egg, and is the price too good to be true? For accuracy, you can check out the company’s own comparison testing with the US Embassy’s monitor, but perhaps you’d rather see more independent tests such as this reviewer’s comparative testing with much more expensive sensors. It’s in Chinese but just from his photos you see they’re generally the same. I’ve discussed the Egg with some pollution experts in Beijing and they’re generally supportive but mention that humidity can mess with the numbers a bit, and also putting Eggs side to side will show slightly different numbers. But in general, on a consumer level, it certainly does what it says it does.
I personally think the Egg could be improved, but it’s accurate enough for me and very impressive for a first version. And right now I definitely have stopped using the Dylos and will only be using the Egg from now on. If you’re interested in the Egg, you can buy on their website here or also via their Wechat directly (ID: originstech). I’ve also seen it behind the cash registers at April Gourmet and Jenny Lou’s. Think Christmas stocking stuffer…
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