It’s May, and if you are like me or anyone in my family (including my dog), you are probably suffering from itchy eyes, stuffed noses, and scratchy throats. Yep, it is allergy season and here in California because of the heavy rains we had over the winter, things are blooming. A LOT! And that means there are lots of particles in the air causing issues with people’s sinuses. I don’t think that it’s coincidental that May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Allergies and asthma aren’t just about pollen though obviously, but particulate matter does play a big role in it. Understanding what is in the air inside and outside is important in controlling asthma and allergies. And now there are ways to get insights into the air in and around your home. Blueair recently launched a free service called Air View which lets you visually understand the pollutants in the air in your neighborhood, and it easily complements their indoor air monitoring and purifying solutions as well.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), there is currently no cure for asthma or allergies. That means, there is only awareness and prevention that can reduce the risks to sufferers. And while some allergies are seasonal with pollen from grasses, trees, and flowers, other allergies like from foods, are year-round. Trust me, it’s always a concern for my family as my youngest daughter has peanut allergies.
You may not even realize you have allergies either. For many years, I would get a “bad cold” in February. My eyes, throat, and nose would each be irritated much like when I had a bad cold, but I wouldn’t be lacking energy. Every year this would happen. Finally, I decided to take some preventative measure and took some allergy medicine. This year, as a result, I had practically not symptoms of the “bad cold” but it did take me many years to realize that it wasn’t a cold but rather seasonal allergies.
Some quick allergy facts:
- Nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the US
- Allergies affect 30% of adults and 40% of children, a number that is growing
- Allergies is the most common health issue affecting children in the US
- In 2012, 17.6 million adults and 6.6 million children had hay fever
Air View, the new Blueair free service that allows you to get information on the outdoor pollutants in your area (based on the closest outdoor monitoring station), provides lots of actionable insights and information about the outdoor air you are exposed to. And, a majority (9 out of 10) of people breathe polluted air every day, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
What is Blueair’s Air View?
Air View is a fun and informative service that uses Google maps to give you a street-level “view” of the pollutants in the air around you. By just entering in an address, the service gets air quality data from Green Room, Wynd, PM25, AirNow and the European Environment Agency. It’s important to remember, the measuring station might not actually be that close by. But that being said, you can not only get real-time readings based on the closest measurement stations but also understand what it is exactly that is potentially “polluting” your air.
You can start checking the air around you by visiting the Air View site and putting in an address. This can be just about any address, provided there is a Google Street View rendering of it. The air data is updated based on the schedule of the data provider as well as the monitoring station.
Once you put in the address, you are presented with a street view of that location (remember, this isn’t a live street view, but whatever view is stored in Google). The air measurements are, however, quite current. I put in an address by my work to see how the air quality was.
In this enhanced display, you see various items representing pollution or particulate matter floating in front of you. It is interactive so if you press on any of the “+” symbols, you can get more information on that particular item. For example, I clicked on the PM 2.5 item and got the following information:
The details give the information about the PM 2.5 – Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometers. It also shows the measurement amount from that specific monitoring station. When I took the reading, despite it being in San Francisco, the measurement was good (probably because it was a windy day and any pollution was blown away).
You can also get a general reading of air quality by clicking on the box in the upper right-hand corner. This gives you an overall score for that particular area. Click on the box provides more details.
The details show the Air Quality Index (AQI), when the measurement was updated, what the reading really means, and where the data came from. For fun, I put in my home address, where it had been hotter and with less wind, and got a higher AQI reading.
As you can see, the AQI was higher and gave a Moderate reading which meant that while polluted, it wasn’t that bad. (Also to note, the monitoring station was several miles from my house.)
Blueair’s Air View is a great way to learn about the pollution (or lack thereof) around your work or business. Since it is updated real-time (provided the monitoring station does that), it’s a method to understand if you need to be careful breathing the air, exercising, or even going outside, particularly if you have asthma and/or allergies.
Monitoring & Fixing Indoor Air Quality Too!
But guess what, getting an outside reading of air quality is only part of the equation. A majority of us spend most of our times indoors. And you can have pollution indoors as well. If there are a bunch of people over at your home, the CO2 levels might go up. And that hair spray or perfume? That has a ton of particulate matter. Cooking will generate emissions as well. And even vacuuming your home will produce elevated dust levels.
As part of this article, I got to test out two other Blueair products, the Blueair Aware (an indoor air quality monitor) and the Blueair Classic 205 (a connected air purifier). These two items are an ideal pair for a single solution for monitoring and cleaning indoor air.
First, let’s start with the Blueair Aware. This device monitors your indoor air pollution and with the smartphone app, you can get real-time readouts on a variety of dirty air items like CO2, Particulate Matter 2.5, and Volatile Organic Compounds, as well as the temperature and humidity.
I decided to set this in out master bedroom for a couple of reasons. It has a different environment than the rest of the house, and we wanted to use the air purifier that that Aware can link to and control in our bedroom (to clean the air when we slept and also act as a sound machine).
Setup is extremely easy. You just need a smartphone with the Blueair Friend app installed. It initially connects to your phone via Bluetooth and then you hook it up to your WiFi. Once it is connected, you can get real-time readouts and alerts of the pollution in your home.
You can get details records of your air quality over hours, days, or weeks.
But the utility of the Blueair Aware doesn’t stop there, especially if you have one of the Blueair connected air purifiers. I was supplied with the Blueair Classic 205 which, on its own, it a solid air purifier. This air purifier has an elegant and modern looking design while not being “in your face.” It has electrostatic and mechanical filtration which pulls in particles of all sizes and types. It is a HEPA filter which means it can pull in smoke, dust, and pollen. It can cover a room of about 280 square feet and will circulate the air 5 times in one hour.
It is not silent but it is definitely NOT noisy. I actually have found that when sleeping, it is the perfect level to drown out background noises.
You can manually control the fan via controls under a hidden flap on the top.
But the true power of the Classic 205 is with its connectivity. You can connect it to WiFi (which was a bit challenging initially but I just set it up manually after just a few minutes). Once it is connected, you can use the same Blueair Friend app to turn it on or off, change the fan levels (there are 3), control the light brightness on the front, or best yet, connect it to the Blueair Aware.
Once you connect it to the Blueair Aware, you can let the Aware control when the fan turns on or off based on if a “pollution event” occurs in your room. Just for fun, one of my daughters breathed heavily on the Aware and it detected elevated levels of CO2. So, within less than a minute, the Classic 205 turned on to filter and circulate the air to reduce the CO2 levels.
Within the Blueair Friend app, you have control and visibility of both devices.
I have programmed both the Aware and the Classic 205 to turn off their blue lighting at night and I have the fan set to filter the air from 10pm until 6pm. It’s actually a great way to tell the time without looking at a clock – fan goes on = time for bed; fan goes off = time to get up.
But the best thing is, the Aware is monitoring for bad changes in air quality. And it will kick on automatically.
While National Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month will end at the end of May, your allergies will most likely still be there. Armed with air monitors and purifiers inside your home will help to alleviate some of the misery allergy and asthma sufferer regularly endure. And now with Blueair’s Air View service, you can easily get a glimpse as to how the air quality outside your home or office is. Here’s to making the air a bit easier to breathe!
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HTD says: Blueair is working hard to increase awareness outside of the house with Air View. This complements its air quality monitoring and purification solutions it has for inside the house. Breathing can get just a little bit easier!