Amidst the tidal wave of smart home products that have appeared in recent years, promising to automate everything from your garden to your toaster , the healthy home subcategory has started to take shape, making use of inexpensive sensors and your home Wi-Fi.
Awair is the latest company to add to this ecosystem with its $110 Awair Glow, an air quality sensor that can help modify your environment by managing appliances plugged into its smart outlet. It can track temperature, humidity, CO2, and airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also has a built-in motion sensor and nightlight. The free companion app lets you track these environmental variables, get notified when they change, and offers helpful tips. Read on for our Awair Glow review, to find out if it’s a must-have, or just another gadget looking to capitalize on the connected-home craze.
Cute, but bulky
The Awair Glow certainly looks the part of a smart home device. Its smooth, white plastic body is gently curved, and features a real walnut wood panel that integrates a status light, as well as the night light after which the product is named. We’d go so far as to say it’s attractive, and it reminds us of some of the best product designs from companies like Braun and Apple.
It’s chunky, though, sticking out from the wall much farther than an average power brick — something curves simply can’t change. You could stick it behind furniture, but then you’d lose out on its motion sensor, nightlight, and status indicator functions, not to mention you might well reduce the efficacy of its other sensors.
The Awair Glow’s free companion app walks you through setup, which takes about two minutes. However like a lot of smart home gadgets, you will have to create an account before you can start.
The Awair Glow manages to check a lot of boxes at a reasonable price
Once that’s done, the app finds your Awair Glow, connects it to Wi-Fi, and then asks you a series of questions to help it understand where and how you’ll be using the device. Is it in a home or office? Where in the world is it located? Which room is it in? And perhaps most importantly, in terms of the feedback the app gives you during use — what do you hope to get from using Awair Glow?
You could opt to leave it on default, to get general feedback on air quality, or you could set a specific goal, like sleeping better, improving productivity, or being vigilant for allergens. There’s even a baby-room setting, which will appeal to concerned parents, and was the primary use-case envisioned by Awair’s founders when they started the company. You then get a quick walk-through tutorial on what the lights on the device mean, and how to navigate the main screens of the app. It’s all clearly presented, with a friendly design that mirrors the Awair Glow’s minimalist appearance.
What are you breathing?
Awair Glow’s goal is to keep you informed of some (but not all) elements in your environment that could impact your health. There’s two ways it can do this. The status indicator light atop the unit gives you an at-a-glance sense of things. Green means all good, orange means you may want to take a closer look, while red means there’s a serious air quality problem that should be addressed immediately.
You can also see your air quality through the device’s app. The same green-orange-red scheme appears on the app’s home screen, along with an overall air quality score. With notifications turned on, you’ll get status changes immediately, along with a suggestion of what to do.
During our testing the app told us on one occasion that humidity levels were creeping up, and that we should turn on a dehumidifier. On another occasion, it told us that chemical levels were up — possibly caused by cleaning supplies — and we should open a window to help them disperse.
Cause and effect
It’s one thing to be notified of a problem, but it’s better if you can automatically take some remedial action, which is why having an outlet built into an air quality sensor makes a lot of sense. Just as your thermostat can not only tell you the room temperature, but also adjust heating and cooling accordingly, the Awair Glow can trigger and appliance such as a humidifier, dehumidifier, or air filtration system, plugged into its outlet. You can program it using a schedule, trigger it with the motion sensor, or use the air quality indicator as the regulator.
The app is clearly presented, with a friendly design that mirrors the Awair Glow’s minimalist appearance.
However, you can only have one device plugged into the Awair Glow, so you’ll have to choose which appliance is most needed.
The Awair Glow could automatically kick our dehumidifier into gear based on humidity levels, and regulated the appliance better than the dehumidifier’s own humidistat, which made the unit run constantly. We weren’t expecting the Glow to clearly improve one of our appliances, but that’s exactly what it did.
These services may not be the best way to manage an air quality appliance like a dehumidifier, but they radically increase the number of ways you can use the Awair Glow. You can say, “Alexa, turn on the Bedroom Night Light,” to activate the nightlight or, if you drop the “night light” portion of the command, Alexa will turn on the outlet. If you only want to use the Glow for air monitoring, the number of possible things you can plug into the outlet is limited only by their power requirements. Given the Awair Glow can handle 14 amps at 1700 watts, we’re hard pressed to think of a home appliance — other than a clothes dryer — that can’t be plugged into it.
Awair’s app is simple. The home screen gives a quick readout of the monitored room’s status, showing an overall score, and a breakdown of each monitored variable. There’s also quick access buttons to turn the night light and power outlet on and off manually.
Dig deeper into the Trend tab and you can see how the variables have changed over a 24-hour period. You can go back to previous days, too, but there’s no weekly or monthly chart, which we’d like to see
On the Awair+ tab, you can indicate which appliance is attached to the Glow. There are selections for fans, humidifiers, heaters, and more, but your choice only changes which variable the app recommends as a trigger — there’s no other benefit. Any device you connect can be triggered by any of the variables, or on a schedule, or using the motion sensor.
The Tips tab contains, well, tips. If your overall air quality score isn’t good, these tips reflect what Awair thinks can help improve things. Otherwise, they provide generic advice. We like that the app lets you know when a variable has improved, as well as when it needs to be addressed — it helps to know if your actions have made a difference.
The preferences section gives you full control over temperature units (Fahrenheit or Celsius), as well as control over the variables that trigger notifications. You can also decide if you want to be alerted when the Awair Glow turns on your connected appliance, though this might drive you a bit crazy if it happens multiple times a day. We left it off.
Basic air quality issues, like heat and humidity, are easy to remedy with the Awair Glow. Things get a little trickier when targeting CO2, and VOCs. CO2 levels can increase if you and some friends hang out in a poorly ventilated room for a few hours. That’s hardly a problem. But what if the source of the CO2 is a faulty furnace, or hot-water tank? The same question arises with VOCs. A red-level warning condition could be triggered by something as momentary as doing the laundry or Windexing your mirrors, or it could signal a serious issue.
Like a thermostat for air quality, it can activate appliances to address problematic levels.
The Awair Glow can flag concerns, but can’t offer a lot of direction in determining their source. The VOC sensor, for instance, is calibrated to measure the presence of hundreds of compounds based on their common telltale chemical signatures, but can’t tell you the specific compound it has detected. Could your VOC levels be formaldehyde-based, and therefore emanating from your home’s building materials? Or are they ethanol-based, and more likely to be from a cleaning agent? The only way to know is to use the app’s history function and then take careful note when these levels spike, and what you were (or weren’t) doing at the time.
There’s also no support for radon monitoring, a dangerous, naturally-occurring element that is a leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.
Awair Glow comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, which is typical of products in its category.Our Take
With the ability to not only monitor the quality of your indoor air, but also help you take active steps to improving it, the Awair Glow manages to check a lot of boxes at a reasonable price. It’s easy to setup and use, and its integration with assistants like Alexa and Google Home broaden its appeal considerably.
Is there a better alternative?
There are several products on the market that will monitor indoor air quality using the same factors as the Awair Glow, but none that provide its unique blend of features and price. The Nokia Home (formerly the Withings Home) does air monitoring and includes a security camera, but can’t turn appliances on or off, and costs considerably more at $200. Meanwhile, the less expensive $100 Netatmo Healthy Home Coach, might look a lot more elegant, but it can’t detect VOCs, and doesn’t have a smart outlet. The Awair Glow is unique, and that certainly gives it an edge.
How long will it last?
There’s virtually no data on how long air quality monitors last, or to what degree their accuracy degrades over time, so we won’t be making any predictions in that department. Awair is a company with a small product line up and it is actively developing them. Its IFTTT integration was released as we were reviewing the product, which we think is a positive sign.
Should you buy it?
The Awair Glow delivers good, useable information, and lets you take steps to address problems. At $110, we think it’s a very good value for its many features, and knowing your home has decent air will no doubt help you sleep better at night — both literally and figuratively.