by Harry Guinness on
If you’ve any interest in writing nicely then a $1 ballpoint won’t cut it, you need to look at a fountain pen.
You might not pay much attention to the air quality in your home. The Foobot monitors the air in your home so you don’t have to. We dove deep to see if it’s worth $199 to improve your home’s air.
The Footbot is designed to track the quality of the air in your home and alert you if it detects high levels of anything dangerous or irritating like dust mites, allergens, and volatile organic compounds. It can monitor the humidity level in your home to prevent mold, and it can even monitor for carbon dioxide. All of these are reported to an app on your phone. So, is it worth $199? Here’s our experience with the Foobot from setup to living with it.
Setting up the Foobot is so simple you hardly have to think about it. I plugged it in, installed the app within a few seconds, and—for the most part—the Foobot was ready to go. It needs 6 days to fully calibrate but, in my experience, the results it provided weren’t much different after a week than they were on day one. I assume it only does some fine-tuning over the first week.
It’s a fairly innocuous little device. Plug it into a USB charger and forget about it. It’s a little bigger than an average Bluetooth speaker, and its white surface blends into neutral color walls quite well. I set it up on my office desk but for ideal results, you should place yours somewhere central within the home. The Foobot also features an LED, which glows blue when the air quality is good or orange when the air quality is poor. There’s a setting within the app to turn the LED off at specific times, so it won’t be distracting at night. After you finish the initial set up, you should enable this feature, as the light is very bright and distracting, especially at night.
The best kind of gadget is one that encourages you to live a better life. Within a day of owning the Foobot, I realised I needed to make some changes. Loading up the app taught me a scary amount about the air quality in the main room I reside in during my working day. It displays fine particles, volatile compounds, and carbon dioxide levels. The latter is fairly self explanatory, while fine particles refers to things like mold spores and pollen, while volatile compounds refers to the bad stuff like formaldehyde and benzene. In high concentrations—like after you paint a room—you can smells VOCs, but they linger long after the smell is gone.
You don’t need to be a scientist to figure out what to do with this information. Essentially, you want these numbers to be as low as possible. The app also has a Global Index number which is a weighted calculation of those three pollutants, giving you a quick insight into whether your air is good or not. Air temperature and humidity levels are also measured on the bottom of the screen.
Tapping on any of the pollutants will give you a report on how the levels have changed over time. It’s useful when you’re making changes to your home so you can see how your changes affect the air. This led to a few surprises while I used the Foobot.
See, my home office is also my bedroom and it could use some love. For one thing, it’s an old house which means issues with mold and moisture. For another, I’m not generally a fan of house plants, and I rarely open my window because of noisy neighbors. Foobot convinced me to change all that.
The Foobot started glowing orange and reporting very high levels of carbon dioxide, which immediately made me a little anxious. I’m no hypochondriac but as an asthmatic, I appreciate the importance of good air quality. So, with a little advice from the Foobot blog I learned I could improve indoor air quality with a plant. And that’s why I now own a peace lily, which has miraculously reduced the bad levels and given me a much lower global index. I would have never believed adding a single plant to the room would have any real impact on the carbon dioxide levels, but here we are.
As I spent more time with Foobot, I learned when it didn’t like something or, crucially, when I needed to correct the air I was breathing. Spending time using hair spray and other straightening products immediately caused a spike in particle levels, so I opened a window and watched as the levels dropped down to a much more respectable number. Another time, a friend wearing aftershave leaned over the device and it immediately turned orange. Foobot is a sensitive smart home companion — that much is sure.
Like any good health focused gadget, Foobot has encouraged me to think more actively about what I’m doing. Even this morning, I woke up with a headache and checked my phone to learn that Foobot had sent over a notification and was glowing orange again. I cracked open the window and it soon dissipated. Presumably, by not having the window open overnight, the carbon dioxide levels had risen.
It’s possible to set up the Foobot app to notify you of mostly everything imaginable. Any kind of change from humidity levels to CO2 emissions can spark a notification, if you want it to. The idea is to let you “tag” the event with a reminder for what you can do to improve your air quality. For instance, when my hair spray caused a readings spike, I could tag it to remind myself of what caused it. In practice, so many things can trigger alerts (and some things are easy enough to remember), so I had to dial back the notifications so I could focus on on just the significant alerts.
Foobot works with Google Nest, Hive, Netatmo, and other smart thermostats. There’s IFTTT support too. How is that useful in practice? By linking the device to your HVAC system you can have it trigger the fan to circulate air (or even bring fresh air in dependent on how your system is set up). I wasn’t able to test this since I don’t have a smart thermostat (I have a real old house), but other users report positive results with the HVAC integration.
I really liked the Foobot. It lets you keep an eye on things in your air that you might otherwise ignore or never even know about to begin with. It sends enough alerts that you might be tempted to ignore them altogether, but as long as you pay attention to your notifications when you first set it up (or at least the important air quality spikes), it can encourage you to get into healthier habits for your lungs.
The only issue is its price. You could just open more windows, buy more plants, and avoid keeping yourself confined to small spaces with all the doors and windows shut, and you’d have largely the same effect. However, this little friendly nagging device reminds you to build those good habits in the first place and helps you quantify which changes are the most effective. Much like how Fitbits encourage you to walk and lead a more active lifestyle, the Foobot forces you to contemplate the air around you—and that’s a good use of technology for sure.
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