It is a well-known fact that in-home air quality tends to be worse than outdoor quality but, as shown in this review, Awair Element is at least one device that makes managing that easier.
Awair Element acts as a streamlined air monitoring device. That gives users a real-time readout of their air quality across five key metrics. The readouts are provided via a smartphone application when the gadget is connected to the internet. Or, users can rely on the built-in LEDs, which provide a quick-glance chart of air quality and a base score.
The LEDs can also display a ton of more in-depth information as needed.
When combined with other smart home devices and smartphones, Awair Element becomes much more. It becomes a central control hub for HVAC and thermostat systems. That requires no interaction from the user aside from setting the system up and connecting everything. Once done, Awair actively takes part in managing air quality in the home or business.
With one or two caveats aside, that makes having at least one Awair Element a must-have item in any smart home. Let's dig into why that is.
The hardware here looks more like a classy speaker than a home health device
The most immediately noticeable aspect of Awair Element, almost as soon as I opened the review unit's box, is how clean it looks. The box comes in a nice white hue with an ever-so-slightly grey tone around the smoothly rounded edges. That same tone can be found in the rubber feet, which are barely noticeable at all.
Each of the corners is rounded off and there are two sections to the front. Namely, that's a hole that curves neatly to sensors and a speaker-like grill. In fact, this device does more closely resemble a smart speaker-clock than a home health device.
The design here will fit in well within almost any environment. So it's not going to look out of place alongside fancier decor or any other surroundings. The sole caveat to that is that it will look and work best where the power cable can be hidden and the rear buttons can still be accessed.
There are white LEDs behind the grill for displaying information as well as a color-changing RGB LED for status updates. That display typically shows an overall number highlighting air quality rating. It also shows a graph of LEDs for each individual air quality characteristic measured by Awair Element. That's easy to see even in bright natural light.
Around the back of the device, coated in a nearly-soft-touch plastic, there's a second open-air grill face. That's interrupted by a USB Type-C port for plugging the gadget in — the device requires constant power from that. There are also two buttons for cycling through views that we'll cover momentarily.
The quality of the buttons and ports is wonderful. Not only are the buttons easy to press without lacking that satisfying click signaling they're well made. The USB C port is smooth but fits firmly in place. There's no jostle to speak of. So the plug should last a good long time too.
What exactly does Awair Element do?
At its most basic, the Awair Element I used for this review does one thing exceptionally well. It provides a direct way to access in-depth metrics about air quality. Joined with an Ecobee or Sensi Smart Thermostat, it can do much more but we'll start with the basics.
Awair utilizes highly accurate sensors to measure 5 key environmental factors. Those are particulates matter down to PM2.5 or around 3-percent the diameter of a human hair, the total amount of chemicals in the air, CO2, temperature, and humidity.
On the primary screen of the device, using LEDs, those are laid out in a kind of graph. Each has its own bar of LED dots, which fill up in an upward direction as the underlying figures increase or worsen. So the CO2 increased while I was talking while holding the device and particulate matter from dust increased when the cats were playing in that room. When the room was cleaned VOCs — volatile organic compounds or chemicals — readouts increased.
Next to that, on the main screen, is an overall reading for how good air quality is. From 71-percent to 100, the light above that and to the right stays green. It dips into the yellow after that and, if the quality continues to go down, it turns red. That makes it extremely useful just sitting on a shelf to see what the air quality in a region of a home is, although how big an area that covers will vary depending on the size and shape of the area it's placed in.
As shown in the picture above, it's also possible to get a quick exact readout on those without picking up your phone. Simply pressing up or down on the back buttons will cycle through each measurement in turn. There's a clock there as well so that I could easily check the time.
The entire system links to an app, making things better for remote monitoring and voice controls to see where levels are at quickly without using an app or phone. That app also allows for a view of the air quality over time and how any smart home integrations responded. Moreover, it offers up tips for improving air quality and an idea of how each factor impacts health or the human body.
Does Awair Element work?
It's fair to say that this device was not tested scientifically during my review of Awair Element. But it does seem to be fairly accurate based on my experiences with the device.
The room the Awair Element was placed in for my review had little to no movement. It was a secondary living room chiefly inhabited by two cats. Despite that, every time the cats would move around a lot or a person would pass through, the Particulate Matter measurement (PM2.5) would jump. That indicated, to the best of my knowledge, that they'd kicked up some microscopic dust particles.
The CO2 readout would take an upward turn too, anytime I was in the room and especially if I spoke while standing nearby. That, to me, indicates that this is an extremely sensitive gadget, well attuned to picking up small changes and reporting them.
For the most part, the readings in that area of the house stayed fairly normal. That is to say, the air quality stayed above a score of 89 out of 100. There were days and times where that would dip below 70. But typically the only bad readout was from moisture, thanks to a humidifier placed a short distance away.
Using cleaning chemicals resulted in a jump in the VOCs readout.
Now, there's nothing really scientific about the way I tested whether or not Awair Element works. But the gadget, as mentioned already, seems sensitive to changes. We'll discuss performance later on but for now, it's safe to say that it does work fairly well.
Not only does Awair Element let you watch in real-time, with notifications if desired, as levels climb or fall. It does so well enough and stays connected well enough that I'm comfortable saying that the next feature of discussion should work quite spectacularly too.
Clearing out the bad
Now, there is one feature of the Awair Element that I couldn't review and test because I didn't have access to a home with the appropriate setup. Namely, that's to say I didn't have access to an Ecobee or Sensi Smart Thermostat. I also didn't have access to any kind of smart thermostat linked up to an HVAC system. For homes and businesses that do, this monitor goes much further than just providing information.
The Awair Element can, in fact, go as far as to use those systems to clear out the home or to help users adjust the temperature to better suit what they're doing. For instance, when connected to an HVAC system, the Element will actively work to manipulate the flow of air when a particle or chemical count gets too high.
That's similar to and seems tied into notification features we'll discuss momentarily.
The app will also inform users about how temperature and humidity impact things like sleep quality. Users can then set a better temperature for going to sleep or waking up in the morning. Those can, with either system Awair Element ties into, be scheduled using the information from Awair Element.
That means this app doesn't just clean the air when linked to the appropriate system. It also doesn't only provide readouts. It gives complete control over environmental characteristics with the facts in-hand. That means users can improve their air quality and much more for a healthier, generally better life.
Awair Element was not perfect during this review
The Awair application, once connected, works very well. But that's a topic we'll cover momentarily. The one major caveat to this device is in getting connected, to begin with. The very first time I tried to connect, I spent 15 minutes waiting for the app and my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ to connect to the device. The prompts were easy to follow. The status, represented by the primary LED on the gadget is easy to read and well-explained in the app.
The problem is that the device failed to connect at all during that period. In fact, it failed the second time as well.
I wasn't able to connect Awair Element to my smartphone and the app until the third try. It appears the fix was connecting to the box via Bluetooth first. Once connected, I opened up the app and tried again. The process still took a long time. It took around 15 minutes this time too but it did connect.
Now, that's going to be an issue because it will require a bit of patience from anybody trying to use the device. It may have eventually connected, given more time, without connecting via Bluetooth first. But it is still an issue.
Fortunately, the connection problem seems to be entirely software-based. So it's something that the company could readily fix with a relatively simple, or at least straightforward, over-the-air update. It may also be the case that the smartphone in question is at the center of the issue since it's software-based. Regardless, it's fairly difficult to consider a dealbreaker.
Awair Element performance & voice
Now, there's no easy way to test exactly how accurate Awair Element is. But, in terms of overall performance, this device appears to be extremely quick to respond to environmental changes. While showing Awair Element to some friends during the review period — and speaking near the device — the gadget immediately started shifting CO2 levels upward.
That change appeared both on the device's readout LEDs and via an Android app notification. The latter of those show up fairly frequently in a home with a lot of movement and activity. But they aren't disruptive. Instead, they're helpful, showing exact figures for how much things have shifted and a full readout at a tap.
When I cleaned the room near the device using chemicals, VOCs changed. And similar responsiveness was seen with humidity, temperature, and other metrics. This device responds quickly and, with proper integration via Amazon Echo, Google Home, and either Ecobee or Sensi Smart Thermostats, the responsiveness in terms of integrated smart home features should be rapid too.
I used the Google Assistant to interact with Awair for getting measurements. But I also asked it to compare rates over time to see how its various tracked measurements shifted over time. For example, it can compare last night's measurements to today's. Or it can show sleep records coupled with the proper smart home devices. So commands via voice are on-point and far-reaching too.
In terms of performance and voice features, this device simply doesn't disappoint.
For those who really need clean air, this is a worthwhile buy
Air quality monitoring is not something to take lightly but it really shouldn't be a chore either in the era of modern smart home equipment. With Awair Element, it is taken seriously but in a very set-and-forget way. Once an appropriate location for the Element has been chosen, it really is just a matter of keeping an eye on notifications.
From there, users manage their environment with air purifiers, thermostats, and other equipment for a better in-home environment.
Conversely, for those who have other smart home devices, things become decidedly more proactive. Awair Element can actively remove irritants and dust via HVAC. It utilizes smart thermostats to make sleep easier and make everything else more comfortable. That's automated so there's no need to physically interact with the device. Users can simply go about their daily lives knowing Awair is taking care of air quality.
Voice interactions take that a step further, although getting the app connected initially can be a pain. Once connected, everything operates smoothly and talking to the device is intuitive.
All of that is at a cost of just under $150. That's a small price to pay to breathe and live just a bit better. Taken in combination with everything else, it also makes Awair Element an easy, if not perfect, recommendation. Especially for those who want more peace-of-mind about and easier management of their air quality.