I’m a typical nerd when it comes to the quantification of self — you know, the concept that we can break down all our bodily functions into numbers and patterns: from daily steps taken to sleep cycles and REM. When the Fitbit was released, I became obsessed with the gamification of walking: I made sure I did 10,000 steps before arriving home at night. I joined virtual walking challenges with friends to see who clocked in the most steps every week. It was fun, mostly because it was turning the mundane into something interesting.
Fast forward to today — I’m stuck at home, mostly. Like most Filipinos, the family has been home for the better part of the year and we’ve been rather anal about our COVID-19 checklist: social distancing outside (in the rare times we do go out), sanitize and bathe once we get home, mask game on, no crowds. And then I read about COVID (and other bacteria) being airborne and all that. I’m not paranoid, but I always wondered if there was a way to quantify the air around us. I have a friend I follow on Facebook and was really intrigued when he would post photos of his air quality sensor chart readings. “Oh the particle density is high today because there’s construction next door.” I’d geek out on his updates and thought to myself — hey, maybe I should get myself one of those.
After a bit of Googling I was able to find an air quality monitor from Lazada for the home. Add to card! After a few days, my uHoo Air Monitor finally arrived. I set the device up in the living room as this was the biggest space at home, because it also served as the dining room and indoor kitchen. Out of the box, the device looks like a small lamp or a portable speaker (like those JBL ones). It is important to know that the device needs to be kept plugged to work and does not have a built in battery. After connecting the air sensor to my WiFi mesh network through the app (Android and iOS compatible), I really just .. left it alone.
Before all this I really had no idea how this would work. It turns out that the device has a total of 9 different sensors that transmit data back to the app in graph form, for you to see. Apart from temperature and humidity, it also keeps track of air pressure, nitrogen, ozone, total volatile organic compounds (like when you’re cooking), and carbon monoxide levels (this was a surprise to me because CO poisoning is a thing and not too many people know how fatal this is — I am a recovered victim of CO poisoning which happened when I was an infant — thank heavens I survived).
What’s important to know is that the indoor air quality monitor isn’t a miracle cure to airborne bacteria, asthma attacks, and of course COVID. uHoo is not an air purifier, a humidifier or a UV light. What it does is keep you informed of the quality of air that you breathe indoors and gives suggestions on how to improve it using what it calls a proprietary virus index, which is really a simplified guide for actionable items that can immediately improve your air quality. Let me give you two examples: I’ve been keeping tabs on how my “air cocktail” changes during the waking hours. It seems that C02 really builds up in my living room at night and it all gets released in the morning when I come down and open the windows — like dramatically goes down. I have attached a photo of the sensor reading showing this drop. Now as more people at home wake up and enter the living room, C02 levels shoot up again, mainly because everyone is exhaling indoors. According to uHoo, high C02 levels contribute to lethargy and migraines which is why opening more and more windows became directly proportional to the home having a better mood. I have quantified “being stuffy at home.” The second example had to do with my skin allergy which was also passed on to my youngest son. Some times during the day, we would begin to itch and I would notice the TVOC rating would go up — again this is the sensor that detects volatile organic compounds which usually come from paint, sprays, pesticides, and yes cooking. I noticed that our skin irritation was in sync with the rise of the TVOC and the only change in the house at that given moment was someone frying fat in the kitchen.
As a child of the 80’s, I’m a firm believer in the GI Joe battlecry “knowing is half the battle!” So apart from the pleasure I get with geeking out with this device at home, it does have a huge practical benefit to my way of life, and maybe yours too. This comes from a guy who has had seasonal allergic rhinitis, asthma (both lungs and skin) and a bunch of other respiratory conditions since I was small.
You can currently buy the uHoo Indoor Air Quality Sensor for P18,500 from Lazada.