If you live in a crowded urban centre, all you really have to do is peek outside in the morning to confirm how polluted the air you’re breathing is. But even if you don’t live in a perpetual cloud of smog, that doesn’t necessarily mean the air you’re breathing is clean, which is why this $15 air quality sensor from IKEA might not be a bad idea.
The Vindriktning — one of IKEA’s more challenging pronunciations — is designed to sit in a high traffic area of your home so it has a better chance to sample what everyone is regularly breathing. It’s specifically looking for what’s known as PM2.5 particles, which can come from sources including automobile exhaust, power plants, fireplaces, aeroplanes, forest fires, and even volcanoes which are less regional, but more capable of spewing pollutants around the world.
PM2.5 particles are especially problematic because they’re microscopic and can not only stay aloft longer, increasing the risk of them being inhaled, they’re also small enough to slip past the body’s natural defences and easily make their way into the lungs and circulatory systems. Exposure to PM2.5 particles has been linked to everything from increased risks of heart and lung disease, to exasperating respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis. The more you can avoid them, the better.
The Vindriktning uses a traffic light approach to warning users about the air quality in their homes, with green indicating PM2.5 levels are low, orange indicating an acceptable level, and red warning that the detected air quality is considered unhealthy. At $US12 ($15) the Vindriktning doesn’t even include a USB power source, you have to provide that yourself, so it’s probably not a surprise that it also doesn’t do anything to remedy air quality issues. It’s like a smoke detector for smog, but minus the ear-piercing alarm.
To actually do something about a detected air quality issue, you’ll want to pair the Vindriktning with something like IKEA’s $77 Förnuftig air purifier whose filter promises to absorb “approximately 99.5% of smaller airborne particles such as dust and pollen down to PM2.5.” Unless you live in California, where the Förnuftig can’t be sold because it doesn’t meet the state’s stringent air quality regulation requirements. If you live anywhere near Los Angeles, you’ll probably just want to splurge for something like Dyson’s bank-breaking air purifiers instead, which both monitor air quality and work to improve it at the same time.