Airthings Wave Plus Review

A smart battery-powered radon detector

Verdict

If you want to monitor your home for radon levels (and you should if you live in an area of high concentration), the Airthings Wave Plus is a simple and effective way to do so. This battery-powered monitor can also detect harmful chemicals, as well as monitoring the general quality of your air, although it lacks a particulate matter (PM) sensor for detecting small particles, such as pollen and dust. You can control other devices via the IFTTT channel, based on the readings that you get, although these rules only work while your phone is within Bluetooth range.

Pros

  • Simple to install
  • Clean and friendly app
  • Radon siren

Cons

  • App only updates when in Bluetooth range
  • No particulate matter sensor

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £239
  • 120 x 120 x 36mm
  • Radon, VOC, CO2, temperature, humidity and air pressure sensors
  • Amazon Alexa support

People are becoming increasingly aware that the quality of indoor air is just as, if not more, important than the quality of the outside air. After all, we spend a lot of our time inside, so a toxic home environment can negatively affect our health. While we’ve reviewed a lot of air quality monitors in the past, the Airthings Wave Plus is the first device we’ve reviewed that measures radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer.

For those in high radon areas, a monitor such as this should be essential. The neat wireless design makes this product easy to install and there’s a nicely designed app, but the Bluetooth only connection reduces the uses a little.

Airthing Wave Plus – What you need to know

  • Detection performance: Excellent if you need a radon detector, but the other sensors are more limited and are better suited to general comfort.
  • Features: Integrated radon alarm is useful, and you can wave in front of the detector to see current air quality.
  • Control: There’s an IFTTT channel to control other devices, although this only works if your phone is within Bluetooth range.

Related: Best air purifier

The Airthings Wave Plus is easy to install and the app is a useful way of monitoring over time, but the range of sensors is a little limited

Screw the backplate to a wall or ceiling, away from vents or windows, slot the batteries into the Airthings Wave Plus and attach the air quality sensor to the bracket and you’re good to go. There’s no need for the app for general use, as you can just wave your hand in front of the device to see the air quality status: green for good, yellow of average, and red for poor.

Airthings Wave Plus batteries

Running off two AA batteries, the air quality sensor is quick to get running

Your hand has to be within a couple of centimetres of the Airthings Wave Plus to activate the sensor, so make sure you place the device within easy reaching distance.

As useful as it is to see air quality at a glance, if you want to get down to the details, you’ll need the smartphone app, which connects to the Wave Plus via Bluetooth. When your phone’s in range, it automatically downloads the latest information to display on screen.

From the main screen, you can see the same overview of your air quality, using the same colour scheme, but you also get the individual readings for each of the sensors in the Wave Plus. Radon is probably the most important sensor in the product.

Airthings Wave Plus air quality

The simple home screen lets you see your air quality at a glance

Produced by naturally occurring uranium, radon is a radioactive gas that typically comes from the ground. It’s typically the biggest source of radiation that we’re all exposed to, and at high concentrations can increase the risk of lung cancer through inhalation of the gas.

For people that live in areas of high radon concentration, a radon detector is recommended. You can find out more about radon and use the interactive map at ukradon.org.

For radon, the Airthings Wave Plus starts measuring immediately, but it takes at an hour to produce the first radon reading and then needs a week for accurate results. The app will monitor levels and you can use the historical readings to see how radon levels have fluctuated. Results are recorded using the becquerel (the SI derived unit of radioactivity) per metre cubed.

Airthings Wave Plus radon levels

Monitoring radon over time helps you stay safe and is recommended in areas with high concentrations of the gas

At levels between 0 and 48BQ/m3 you need no action; 49-99Bq/m3 shows that you should ventilate your home and seal cracks; 100-149BQ/m3 shows that you should keep measuring and seek professional radon mitigation help if levels stay the same for three months; 150Bq/m3 and up, you should monitor and seek advice if levels don’t drop after a month.

High levels of radon will also set off the alarm, which can be turned off in the app or muted for a month by waving your hand in front of the Airthings Wave Plus.

The Airthings Wave Plus has other sensors, too. Tap any reading and you’re taken to a page that shows you historical levels plus the current status, with a coloured ring showing you if your air is good, average or poor.

TVOC measures the total amount of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are harsh chemicals that can be found in some cleaning products and even in the glue in old furniture. At high levels, VOCs can cause irritation to eyes, nose and throat or even liver and kidney damage. An air purifier can help deal with the issue if it’s capable of capturing gasses.

Airthings Wave Plus VOCs

You can see VOC levels and can deal with them by using some air purifiers

If these figures spike, it’s worth working out what could have caused it, such as using a particular paint or cleaning product and then switching to a different brand.

Beyond this, the Airthings Wave Plus has sensors more concerned with comfort. The temperature sensor is probably the least useful, as you can generally work out when it’s too hot or cold. The humidity sensor is handy, as too moist and you can get mould growth, too dry and you can get dry skin and breathing problems. Opening a window, or running a humidifier or dehumidifier can help.

The CO2 sensor helps you tell when the air isn’t fresh. High levels can cause headaches and concentration problems and can be solved by opening a window. Finally, there’s a barometric pressure sensor, with high pressure linked to headaches. Opening a window can equalise the pressure with outside but that won’t necessarily help if there’s high pressure outside.

It’s a shame that there’s no particulate matter (PM) sensor to warn you of high levels of small particles, which can cause breathing problems and be a source of allergens, such as pollen. Airthings will add a more generic outdoor PM level to the dashboard but the Airthings will still not measure the level of small particles in your home.

There’s an IFTTT channel for automating your response and Alexa support – but the Bluetooth connection limits their use

Airthings has a full IFTTT channel so that you can automate your response to levels. For example, if the humidity rises above a certain level, you could trigger a smart plug to turn on a dehumidifier, turning it off when the humidity drops. Likewise, if you have an automated vent, you could refresh a room that has a high level of CO2.

You can also use the sensors to generate alerts, such as turning all of your Philips Hue lights red in the event of high radon levels. As good as this sounds, the readings are only as accurate as the last time that data was uploaded to the cloud, and this only happens when your phone is within Bluetooth range of your Airthings Wave Plus. If you go out, then the IFTTT channel won’t work.

There’s a Hub coming soon, which will let the Airthings Wave Plus communicate with the online servers without the need for a smartphone but this is currently only available for pre-order. Airthings has an Alexa Skill, although this only lets you get a current radon level read-out. Again, it relies on your phone having uploaded the latest information to be accurate.

Should I buy the Airthings Wave Plus?

If you live in an area with high levels of radon, the Airthings Wave Plus lets you keep an eye on the levels and make sure that you’re safe. In this case, it’s a great tool and the minor inconvenience of having to have your phone within Bluetooth range isn’t such a problem.

Outside of the radon sensor, the Airthings Wave Plus does less than the rival Foobot, which can also detect the levels of particulate matter. And, as the Footbot is powered and uses Wi-Fi, it can trigger IFTTT rules even when your phone is out of reach.

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