How to Check the Air Quality in an Apartment?

Are you curious about the air quality in your apartment?

According to the EPA, the air inside your home is more polluted than the outside air (it can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air).

So, it isn’t unusual for renters and homeowners to be suspicious of their indoor air quality. Here’s how you can check and monitor air quality in your apartment.

Device/TestWhat it DoesExpected Cost
Indoor Air Quality MonitorChecks for AQI, VOC, Particulate Matter, and Humidity$100-$200
Carbon Monoxide AlarmChecks for CO levels in the air$20-50
Mold TestChecks whether there is mold in the sample$10
Radon TestTest for Radon levels in the air$20-$50
Allergen TestTests for various allergens in the air (could be used for indoor or outdoor air)$60-$100
Aerosol Particle Counters Count for small and large particles in the air within your apartment/house$400-$500
Lead TestChecks for the presence of lead in the apartmentNeed to get a professional’s quote in your area

Get an Indoor Air Quality Monitor

If you experience allergic symptoms or suspect your apartment’s air is polluted, you should purchase an indoor air quality monitor.

Temtop M10 Air Quality Monitor PM2.5 HCHO TVOC AQI Real-Time Indoor Air Pollution Detector

What it Does

This device does what its name implies—it tests and reports pollution levels inside your living space.

Here are some aspects this electronic device monitors.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

The air quality index is a measurement of how dangerous indoor or outdoor air is to human health.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

VOC are chemical pollutants that originate from everyday home items like carpeting, varnishes, hair sprays, cleaning agents, lacquers, paints, to name a few.

Even if you haven’t used these recently, your furniture or carpet may continue to release these in the indoor air and pollute it.

Particulate Matter (PM2.5)

The indoor air quality monitor also checks the levels of particulate matter inside your apartment. Inhalable PM comprises dust and other tiny allergens in your home.

These allergens mostly come from cabinetry, new/old upholstery, deteriorated asbestos, and cooking elements.

Also read: Why Is My Apartment So Dusty?


Humidity levels indicate whether molds might be present in an apartment.

Some indoor air quality monitors provide extra information on pollutants like:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Formaldehyde

How Do These Devices Work?

How these devices operate varies depending on the model. Some devices have display monitors that display real-time values of indoor pollutants.

Other models link with your smartphone and provide readings to your phone via an app. A few models only indicate the overall indoor air quality.

Pricing of Air Quality Monitors

The pricing fluctuates depending on the model. The average indoor air quality monitor costs about $200, while top-end models can be worth $300 or more.

Low-end devices cost around $50 to $100. 

Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Unlike other indoor air pollutants, carbon monoxide (CO) doesn’t cause long-term effects on your health. However, it could be very harmful )even fatal) if you inhale large amounts of it.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector, Plug In with Battery Backup, CO Detector, KN-COP-DP2

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, CO kills more than 150 people in the US each year. Most deaths occur during winter when people are indoors.

This gas usually emanates from fuel combustion. You might be exposed to CO if you own gas-powered cooking appliances like furnaces, grills, burning stoves, dryers, and water heaters.

CO is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, meaning you can’t easily detect its presence in your apartment.

Although indoor air quality monitors detect CO, they don’t alert you when the levels are dangerous. That’s why your home requires carbon monoxide alarms.

How CO Alarms Work

These alarms make beeping sounds if they detect unsafe CO levels in your apartment. Most models beep 4 to 5 times in a row to warn you of high carbon monoxide levels.

The duration of one beep can be as long as four seconds. Higher CO levels (over 150 ppm) will trigger the alarm immediately.

Low CO levels (below 50 ppm) won’t trigger the detector immediately. However, the alarm may trigger after several hours.

Chirping sounds usually indicate issues with the detector and not CO levels. Such sounds primarily occur when the alarm’s battery is running low.

Where to Install CO Alarms

It’s advisable to install CO detectors on every floor in your apartment. Ensure you don’t forget your home’s basement.

You should install CO alarms approximately 5 feet from your apartment’s floor. Some homeowners install these alarms in their ceilings.

Whatever option you pick, the detector shouldn’t be near the floor. This is because carbon monoxide is lighter than air and will rise rapidly with the warm air.

If your detector is close to the floor, it may fail to detect CO.

These detectors should be at least 10–15 feet from sleeping areas. Proximity ensures you can hear the detector’s beeps even when you’re deep asleep.

It isn’t a great idea to place the CO alarm above fireplaces or areas where pets and children play. 

If you must install detectors near fireplaces, ensure they’re 5-20 feet away from the CO source.

Cost of CO Detectors

The average price of carbon monoxide detectors is about $25 to $55.

Test for Mold

Molds are common pollutants that grow in damp areas. Molds become air pollutants when their spores float around in apartments.

They gain entry to your house via vents, open windows, open doors, or cling to clothes and shoes.

How to Test for Mold

You can check for mold in your apartment by sniffing for musty air. If you’re sensitive to molds, you’ll cough, sneeze, wheeze, or experience eye and throat irritation.

Another way of checking for mold is by visual inspection. Take a look at damp places like bathrooms and basements.

If the above methods don’t yield any result, proceed and conduct a mold test.

You can easily get a mold test kit online and do the test yourself. Most of these mold test kits cost less than $10

Mold Armor FG500 Do It Yourself Mold Test Kit FG500, FG500 Do It Yourself Mold Test Kit, Gray

For this test, you’ll need a petri dish and an item susceptible to mold growth. Most tests use potato dextrose.

Expose the petri dish and its content to indoor air, then cap it. Afterward, incubate the petri dish for a while. Mold growth will indicate the presence of mold in your apartment.

Instead of directly checking for mold, you can test for humidity levels in your home. Mold thrives in very humid conditions.

Test for Radon

Radon is a radioactive, colorless gas that causes lung cancer.

Although radon primarily exists in outside soil, it can enter your apartment through cracks in the foundation.

According to the American Lung Association, one in every 15 American homes has dangerous levels of radon. This scary stat makes testing for radon nonnegotiable.

How to Check for Radon

You can test for radon levels in your apartment using over-the-counter air-quality test kits. These devices are available online or in home improvement stores.

First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit, RD1

Testing for radon is inexpensive and straightforward. There are two types of radon test kits, the long-term and the short-term kit.

Short-term test kits cost approximately $20, while long-term kits cost about $50. Once you purchase this device, you only need to open the packaging and leave it in your room.

Short-term tests take anywhere between two to 90 days, while long-term tests last beyond 90 days. Of course, the longer the test, the more accurate the radon results.

You need to mail your test kit to the manufacturer to receive the results. Most kits come with addresses and directions to get your results.

Any value higher than four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) indicates a high concentration of radon.

If you get this value in the short-term test, you need to validate it by running a longer test.

Conduct Allergen Tests

If you’re sensitive to allergens, you must conduct an allergen test before moving into a new apartment.

The test can be as simple as walking into a new apartment and experiencing allergic symptoms. Common allergic reactions include:

  • Headaches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sneezing
  • Dizziness
  • Asthma
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing
  • Eye irritation

Alternatively, you can check for the presence of allergens by purchasing an allergen testing kit.

Everlywell Indoor & Outdoor Allergy Test - at Home - CLIA-Certified Adult Test - Personalized, Accurate Blood Analysis (40 Common Allergens) - Not Available in NY, NJ, RI

How to Use Allergen Testing Kits

Most allergen testing kits in the market won’t detect and identify allergens immediately. You need to sample the air, then send these kits to the manufacturer.

The manufacturer will analyze the kit in the lab and determine the allergens present in your apartment. The results often show the type of allergen and the concentration levels.

Finding out which allergen is responsible for your allergic reactions is difficult. You could rely on their concentration levels, but this won’t be accurate.

A better way is to visit an allergist for a skin prick test. During the examination, the allergist exposes your skin to various allergens and measures the dermal response.

The test results will show which pollutant triggers your allergic reactions.

Aerosol Particle Counters

You can also check for the presence of allergens in your home using particle counters. These devices are lightweight and test air quality in any area of your apartment.

CEM DT-96B Mini Particle Counter, PM2.5 PM10 Indoor Air Quality Meter with Temperature Humidity

These units count the number of large and small particles in your home, then display the results through monitors.

Many large particles indicate allergens like pollen, spores, pet dander, and dust mite feces.

On the other hand, many small particles indicate pollutants like fine dust, smog, mold, smoke, and bacteria.

Test for Lead

According to the American Healthy Homes Survey, approximately 35% of American homes have lead-based paints in some sections. This issue is prevalent in older homes.

It’s vital to conduct a lead test before moving to an apartment built before 1978.

This test is also necessary if your house is close to a roadway. Vehicle emissions might contain lead.

It’s almost impossible to carry out a lead test without proper training. You need to call a professional to do the testing.

Ensure the contractor uses EPA-recognized lead test kits like the 3M LeadCheck and D-Lead.


Poor air quality in an apartment can be detrimental to your health. That’s why it’s essential to conduct regular checks to determine if your indoor air is safe. 

The above guide should help you test the most common indoor air pollutants.

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