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Monitoring indoor air quality with a DIY sensor

Tim Dye has been measuring our environment since he was a kid with his own weather station and a member of the North Jersey Weather Observers. “This was before the Internet,” he points out, “so I guess it’s not too surprising now that I’m 50 that I’m geeking out in my garage with instruments.”

His garage is filled with equipment: some of it part of his garage-based weather station kit, but much of it is related to his experiments testing affordable sensors to make it easier for anyone to test the quality of the air at home, in their neighborhood, workplace, school, etc. As air quality declines in many cities worldwide, this might become of interest to more of us. “Most people I think are genuinely interested in the air they breathe. We’re all kind of curious about the temperature, but we don’t really think about that in terms of the air that we’re breathing and why not?” asks Dye.

These days Dye helps the EPA test the air in America, but he recognizes that air quality can differ street by street and day by day and he thinks it’s our right to know more about the air in our immediate environment. Working with AirCasting of New York City he’s helped create a low-cost sensor system that uses Arduino and Android to record, map and share air quality data (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, as well as temperature, humidity, and noise levels).

AirCasting isn’t the only DIY air quality project, but as the Arduino blog points out, it’s fairly unique in that “it’s been calibrated against known standards or professional equipment”.