One year evaluation of three low-cost PM2.5 monitors

Misti Levy Zamora, Jessica Rice, Kirsten Koehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The availability of low-cost monitors marketed for use in homes has increased rapidly over the past few years due to the advancement of sensing technologies, increased awareness of urban pollution, and the rise of citizen science. The user-friendly packages can make them appealing for use in research grade indoor exposure assessments, but a rigorous scientific evaluation has not been conducted for many monitors on the open market, which leads to uncertainty about the validity of the data. Furthermore, many previous sensor studies were conducted for a relatively short period of time, which may not capture the changes this type of instrument may exhibit over time (known as sensor aging). We evaluated three monitors (AirVisual Pro, Speck, and AirThinx) in an occupied, non-smoking residence over a 12-month period in order to assess the sensors, the built-in calibrations, and the need for additional data to achieve high accuracy for long deployments. Two units of each type of monitor were evaluated in order to assess the precision between units, and a personal DataRAM (pDR-1200) with a filter was placed in the home for about 20% of the sampling period (e.g., about a week each month) to evaluate the accuracy over time. The average PM2.5 mass concentration from the periods of colocation with the pDR were 5.31 μg/m3 for the gravimetric-corrected pDR (hereafter pDR-corrected), 5.11 and 5.03 μg/m3 for the AirVisual Pro units, 13.58 and 22.68 μg/m3 for the Speck units, and 7.56 and 7.57 μg/m3 for the AirThinx units. The AirVisual Pros exhibited the best accuracy compared to the filter at about 86%, which was slightly better than the nephelometric component of the pDR compared to the filter weight (84%). The accuracies of the Speck (−174 and −405%) and AirThinx (42 and 40%) monitors were much lower. When the 1-min averaged PM2.5 mass concentrations were categorized by air quality index (AQI), the pDR-corrected matched the AirVisual Pro, Speck, and AirThinx bins about 97, 40, and 87% of the time, respectively. The Pearson correlation coefficients (R2) between the unit pairs and the pDR were 0.90/0.90, 0.50/0.27, and 0.92/0.93 for the AirVisual Pro, Speck, and AirThinx units, respectively. The R2 between units of the same type were 0.99, 0.17, and 1.00 for the AirVisual Pro, Speck, and AirThinx, respectively. All of the monitors could achieve better accuracy by adding filter corrections and post-processing to correct for known biases in addition to the manufacturer's correction routine. Monthly calibrations yielded the highest accuracies, but nearly as high of accuracies could be achieved with only one or two calibrations for the Air Visual Pro and the AirThinx for many applications. In general, this type of new low-cost monitor shows exciting potential for use in scientific research. However, only one of the three monitors exhibited high accuracy (within 20% of the true mass concentration) without any post processing or additional measurements, so an evaluation of each monitor is essential before the data can be used to confidently evaluate residential exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117615
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Aug 15 2020


  • AirThinx
  • AirVisual pro
  • Indoor air
  • Indoor exposures
  • Low-cost sensors
  • PM2.5
  • Pollution
  • Speck

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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