Here are a few tips and suggestions to help local leaders successfully deploy these low-cost air sensors:
What sensors would you recommend for community deployment?
There are two basic kinds of sensors. Mobile sensors collect data as you take the sensor with you, while stationary sensors can be set up outdoors (e.g., at a home, school, park, etc.) or indoors (inside a classroom, cafeteria, or office) to collect data continuously at one place over time. Mobile sensors are useful to track where there may be local sources—or which “journeys” may have pollution hotspots. Stationary sensors give you a longer-term window into local pollution, but only at one place.
There are many sensor manufacturers available, and you can find background information on their data reliability by looking at tests performed at South Coast Air Quality Management District and the EPA. Most sensors can be purchased online.
Earthwatch has chosen to deploy Purpleair sensors because they meet two key criteria: 1) the data quality of the sensors has been tested and data quality control measures are in place, and 2) the data is easy to find and openly accessible to the broader community of the concerned public, scientists, and managers—helping to increase our overall knowledge of air quality.
Purpleair sensors need access to power and Wi-Fi—but have been successfully deployed around the world. For those with intermittent or problematic Wi-Fi, Purpleair makes a model with an SD card that can store the data until it’s downloaded to your computer.
How can you participate?
You can either acquire and install a sensor on your own, or join a community effort if there is one in your neighborhood. There’s even a Purpleair Facebook group where individuals ask questions and get support from the broader community of Purpleair sensor owners! Increasingly, there are regional initiatives that allow people and schools to borrow air quality sensors as well. South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California has a sensor library system for people in its region, for example. Many regions also have local organizations that can provide support (e.g. Clean Air Carolina) to individuals or local organizations as they begin their journey.
You can also use a growing number of apps to learn about your local air quality. Many of these apps are now included as part of your weather app, but some are specialized and can provide local data from a sensor near you. “Local haze” is one such app that pulls in information from open-sourced air quality sensors nearest to you.