Evaluating the Performance of Low-Cost Air Quality Monitors in Dallas, Texas Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The emergence of low-cost air quality sensors may improve our ability to capture variations in urban air pollution and provide actionable information for public health. Despite the increasing popularity of low-cost sensors, there remain some gaps in the understanding of their performance under real-world conditions, as well as compared to regulatory monitors with high accuracy, but also high cost and maintenance requirements. In this paper, we report on the performance and the linear calibration of readings from 12 commercial low-cost sensors co-located at a regulatory air quality monitoring site in Dallas, Texas, for 18 continuous measurement months. Commercial AQY1 sensors were used, and their reported readings of O3, NO2, PM2.5, and PM10 were assessed against a regulatory monitor. We assessed how well the raw and calibrated AQY1 readings matched the regulatory monitor and whether meteorology impacted performance. We found that each sensors response was different. Overall, the sensors performed best for O3 (R2 = 0.360.97) and worst for NO2 (0.000.58), showing a potential impact of meteorological factors, with an effect of temperature on O3 and relative humidity on PM. Calibration seemed to improve the accuracy, but not in all cases or for all performance metrics (e.g., precision versus bias), and it was limited to a linear calibration in this study. Our data showed that it is critical for users to regularly calibrate low-cost sensors and monitor data once they are installed, as sensors may not be operating properly, which may result in the loss of large amounts of data. We also recommend that co-location should be as exact as possible, minimizing the distance between sensors and regulatory monitors, and that the sampling orientation is similar. There were important deviations between the AQY1 and regulatory monitors readings, which in small part depended on meteorology, hindering the ability of the low-costs sensors to present air quality accurately. However, categorizing air pollution levels, using for example the Air Quality Index framework, rather than reporting absolute readings, may be a more suitable approach. In addition, more sophisticated calibration methods, including accounting for individual sensor performance, may further improve performance. This work adds to the literature by assessing the performance of low-cost sensors over one of the longest durations reported to date.

published proceedings

  • International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

author list (cited authors)

  • Khreis, H., Johnson, J., Jack, K., Dadashova, B., & Park, E. S.

publication date

  • January 1, 2022 11:11 AM