A few years ago an air purifier manufacturer provided an expensive professional grade air particle reader for "before & after" monitoring. Using the device proved strangely addictive, informative, and an eye-opening affair, revealing plenty about the quality of interior air (or lack thereof). But what was prohibitively expensive then is reasonably priced now, with the unveiling of the Netatmo, a personal weather station and air quality monitoring system designed for smartphone users...
I've been using a preview system for several weeks now in one of the more urban parts of Los Angeles, a perfect test bed for seasonal swings in weather and air quality, especially during the last few strange weeks where high heat, humidity, brush fires, and winds have made for some challenging weather.
Setting up the Netatmo Urban Weather Station is a snap. The simplified, IKEA-ish pictogram style instruction manual is intentionally sparse. Pop in a quartet of AAA batteries into the outdoor unit and plug in the indoor measurement sensor with built-in WiFi adapter into an iOS device (in my case, an iPad). The setup process is primarily done via your iPhone, Touch, or iPad; after a few on-screen menus connecting the Netatmo to your wi-fi network, alongside a helpful walk-thru explaining how the system works and what data it provides, you're left to explore your very own environmental and weather station report once you decide where to place the indoor and outdoor units.
The shorter outdoor unit can be installed anywhere within about 50 ft. of your wi-fi network, but should be placed where it won't get wet.
If you've ever used Nike+ to track your running, you'll likely feel right at home using the Netatmo's dashboard. The GUI is easily digestible at a glance, with information split into two categories: Outdoor and Indoor. If you forget what each section of the GUI is displaying, no worries, an information overlay is available at the touch of a button, complete with additional explanation of each data category.
- Temperature (Indoor)
- Humidity (Indoor)
- Pressure (Indoor)
- CO2 (Indoor)
- Acoustic Comfort (Indoor)
- Overall Comfort Level (Indoor)
- Temperature (Outdoor)
- Humidity (Outdoor)
- Feels Like Temperature (Outdoor)
- Current Weather (Outdoor)
Every 5 minutes the sensors take a reading and then feeds data wirelessly to your iOS (and soon, Android) device for up-to-date readings from your mobile device. The swipe and tap interface is intuitive and fast, all presented beautifully with an easy to understand color-based system (green=good, yellow=ok, red=uh oh!).
The slim form factor makes placement in and around the house easy. Ideally, the indoor unit is placed away from vents and windows in a room where you spend most of your time for the most relevant and accurate readings.
If I was to guess the primary target for the Netatmo system, it would be an Apple-loving, 25 to 40-something urban dweller with a strong affinity for data...graphs, charts, Venn diagrams, and pie graphs...and/or someone who suffers from allergies. Because at the heart of it, the 2-piece hardwares system packages environmental reporting of humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, carbon dioxide, and even sound levels into a refreshingly easy to digest presentation almost anyone can understand.
"But I can find weather and air quality readings online!", you retort.
Indeed, much of this information is available online through free services like Weather.com and their ilk. What's lacking online are readings specific to your own interior space and the temperature/humidity directly outside your own home. How often does it seem the general weather report for your area feels nothing like the temperature you're experiencing outdoors? That's because weather can be affected by numerous geographic and environmental factors.
For example, I live next to a large urban reservoir, thus humidity levels are usually higher than reported by online and news forecasts, while temperatures can vary considerably compared to just a mile or two over, not to mention variances in air quality throughout a large metropolitan area like Los Angeles.
Local air quality can change considerably due to circumstances specific to your area...or even your own home/apartment. The last few days we've had workmen here prepping our building for a new paint job, while a local fire raged and sent up soot all around; Netatmo reported the change in air quality indoors and we turned up the air purifiers inside. If you or someone in your household is an allergy sufferer, having a live-stream particle reader is an extremely useful tool to determine whether it's safe to go outside, or it's best to hole up with your air purifiers and pop a Claritan.
Turn your device horizontal and you can access a graph report for every metric. Here you can see a dip in sound, reflecting the days we were away on vacation.
Ultimately the appeal of the Netatmo system depends upon how sensitive and interested you are in the sound, air, and temperature quality of your home. I know some hardened New Yorkers who scoff at the effects of loud urban noises, while some fellow Angelenos seem to be immune to anything but the highest ratings of air pollution. But throughout the weeks with the Netatmo, I found myself launching their app upon waking to check on the day's forecast and current readings, helpful for determining whether I was going to spend the day at the beach, hike up to the mountains, or call it a day best spent indoors at the movies. I've also been influenced to vacuum and dust more often with high particle readings, a beneficial side-effect or curse, depending upon your neat-freak index reading (mine is off the charts). If G.I Joe was as wise as I once believed as a kid, then "knowing is half the battle" still applies today, especially when it comes to the living conditions of your home.
Pros: Inuititive and easy to navigate interface for both weather geeks and everyday users; handsome and compact industrial design makes placement easy around the house and outdoors; free iOS app; no subscription fee; useful tool for long term data in relation to interior living conditions.
Cons: If your internet is down, so is the Netatmo system; iPad is supported but interface/display is not optimized for larger screen; Android-compatible app was not available for testing (but planned for release in October); outdoor unit's operating distance was shorter than advertised and is sensitive to high-humidity.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.
(Photos: Gregory Han)