Visualizing Your Homes Air Quality To Better Understand How Everyday Activities Impact The Air

Nov 1, 2018

Jason Wiese (left) and his collaborators helped Utahans visualize their home air quality through sensors, tablets, and a text messaging system.
Credit Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering

The University of Utah’s School of Computing are setting up participants with tools to monitor the air quality in their own homes. This pilot program may change how people visualize and perceive the air in their homes. 

Everyday activities, like cleaning and cooking, can increase the pollutants in your home. University of Utah’s Jason Wiese and his collaborators at the school of computing have installed air quality sensors in Utah homes to measure indoor air quality. They gave the homeowners a tablet so they can monitor the air based on sensors.

"The tablet gave them a way of being able to look back and see a chart of what the air quality measurements had been from the three different sensors we put in their home," Wiese said. "And then in addition we had some technology implemented in the background that would detect a spike. So if the air quality changed suddenly then we could initiate a text message that would say, hey there was this change in air quality in your home, do you have an idea of what might have caused this?"

Through this program, participants could see how their everyday activities affected the air quality in their homes. Wiese said this monitoring system has changed participant’s behavior.

"With cooking, the big change that we saw was that one participant who was actually basically experimenting with what oils cause bigger or smaller spikes in air quality," he said. "And so she saw that she was getting these big spikes when she was using olive oil which is what she had been used to cooking with and so she switched to avocado oil and saw that the spikes were lower and so she started cooking more with avocado oil, she hadn’t realized it before she saw the sensors and highlighted that this was happening in her home."

Wiese encourages Utahns to think about how different activities in their home could spike poor indoor air quality. For example, vacuuming does suck up dirt and pet hair, but it also takes time for the particles to settle after the vacuum is turned off.