Evaluation of calibration approaches for indoor deployments of PurpleAir monitors

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Low-cost air quality monitors are growing in popularity among both researchers and community members to understand variability in pollutant concentrations. Several studies have produced calibration approaches for these sensors for ambient air. These calibrations have been shown to depend primarily on relative humidity, particle size distribution, and particle composition, which may be different in indoor environments. However, despite the fact that most people spend the majority of their time indoors, little is known about the accuracy of commonly used devices indoors. This stems from the fact that calibration data for sensors operating in indoor environments are rare. In this study, we sought to evaluate the accuracy of the raw data from PurpleAir fine particulate matter monitors and for published calibration approaches that vary in complexity, ranging from simply applying linear corrections to those requiring co-locating a filter sample for correction with a gravimetric concentration during a baseline visit. Our data includes PurpleAir devices that were co-located in each home with a gravimetric sample for 1-week periods (265 samples from 151 homes). Weekly-averaged gravimetric concentrations ranged between the limit of detection (3 μg/m3) and 330 μg/m3. We found a strong correlation between the PurpleAir monitor and the gravimetric concentration (R > 0.91) using internal calibrations provided by the manufacturer. However, the PurpleAir data substantially overestimated indoor concentrations compared to the gravimetric concentration (mean bias error ≥ 23.6 μg/m3 using internal calibrations provided by the manufacturer). Calibrations based on ambient air data maintained high correlations (R ≥ 0.92) and substantially reduced bias (e.g. mean bias error = 10.1 μg/m3 using a US-wide calibration approach). Using a gravimetric sample from a baseline visit to calibrate data for later visits led to an improvement over the internal calibrations, but performed worse than the simpler calibration approaches based on ambient air pollution data. Furthermore, calibrations based on ambient air pollution data performed best when weekly-averaged concentrations did not exceed 30 μg/m3, likely because the majority of the data used to train these models were below this concentration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119944
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023


  • Calibration
  • Exposure assessment
  • Fine particulate matter
  • Indoor air quality
  • Low-cost sensors
  • PurpleAir

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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