Earth Notes: On the AQE Air Quality Egg: Review (2013)

Is a low-cost "DIY" Internet-connected air-quality monitor actually any use?
AQE

Review

  • Air Quality Egg
  • Reviewed by: Damon Hart-Davis on 2013/05/24
  • Somewhat flaky, but seems to basically work
  • Regularly samples various air-quality measures such as temperature, humidity, NO2, CO and particulates/dust. Reports those live/publicly for access over the Internet.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Motivation

AQE

I'm keen on biomass as a low-carbon fuel (through its lifecycle), and as a means of storing energy through the year from summer to winter. Biomass could help the UK through cold still winter days and nights when solar and wind renewables cannot contribute much.

I'm less keen on biomass combustion with inadequate flue filtering, reducing air quality and general health and starting to undo the good work of the Clear Air Acts. I'm particularly unkeen on biomass burning in built-up areas where the downsides are amplified. (It is possible to detect the combustion products of trendy real fires in Islingston fireplaces on cold weekends, I'm told.)

To that end I'm interested in measuring (live) and getting into the public domain and making widely available air-quality data for London and beyond. Thus this mini project!

Initial Findings

Ordered from Wicked Devices in the US 2013/04/30 two AQEs with dust sensor add-on for USD486 total (AQE@USD185, dust sensor @USD58); no P&P charge. Arrived 2013/05/09. First AQE set up indoors and put on-line 2013/05/13 (also visible here). She second AQE was set up outside and a little distance away and put on-line 2013/06/03 (also visible here). The AQEs came in decent robust packaging that survived international transit!

old AQE boxes

Immediate bugbears first:

First Steps: end 2013/05

Having observed the AQE running as-is for over a week, my next task is over the next few days at the end of May. It is to try to automate fetching of the published AQE data from Xively and republishing on a local page, live, possibly integrated with additional data from elsewhere.

Measured Power Consumption

Finished

I tried running the AQEs at school to measure temperature and particulates but a number of problems intervened. From huge leaf/dander shed from a nearby tree, to reconfiguration of the school's networking preventing data egress. Then I had difficulty fetching the data from Xively.

As a result the AQE experiment lapsed. The AQEs now lie unused gathering dust!

Postscript

A reasonable rule of thumb as of at least about 2017 is that anything detectiing particulates with any accuracy is going to use several watts (to drive a fan) and cost hundreds of pounds. Other environmental parameters can be a lot less power- and money- hungry to measure, temperature in particular. But the device must be careful not to self-heat to avoid messing up even that!