Dismal Dave suffers from rhinitis, a general non-specific rhinitis brought on by particulates more so than a specific allergen. Cooking smoke, Diesel smoke, jet smoke, the Great Dismal Swamp Fire smoke, pollen, and other things make the sinuses angry. To get a better feeling for what it might be correlated with, I decided to add an air quality monitor to our Apple HomeKit rig.
The bits and pieces needed to make one are inexpensive and can be ordered as a kit with a PCB. A number of DIY websites describe air quality monitor projects. But if you want a case, and there is software to write, …
There are only a few HomeKit capable residential air quality monitor finished products with the QingPing Air Quality Lite being regarded the best value of the lot. Most of the products out there are portable monitors designed for work-place safety applications.
After the break, I’ll explain my initial motivation, selection criteria, intended application, and initial experience.
- 2022-09-14 Original
Previous HomeKit Stuff
Dismal Manor has been in the Eve Home HomeKit camp for some time with Eve door sensors, Eve Weather gadgets, and Eve Aqua water timers for watering the gardens. We also have some EufyLife security cameras that use machine vision to tell me that the dogs are dancing at the door to come in. Our UniFi Protect G4 cameras are bridged (HomeBridge) in and report the dogs movements in the larger back garden and watch the porch and carport. A UniFi NVR application provides business grade recording, event logging, and event retrieval. This app is part of our UniFi Console system.
Heating and Cooling Supervision
The Eve Weathers monitor temperature and humidity. I use them mostly to determine comfortable thermostat settings for the heating and cooling. An Ecobee 3 Lite controls the air conditioning. Experimentation determined that the utility setback scheme was the best for saving energy while maintaining comfort. The simple DOE Energy Star scheme resulted in a cold Dave or a hot Dave and a clammy house. The utility’s peak hour precondition and set back scheme gives a comfortable home once good temperatures are found.
I use the Eve Weathers to monitor room temperature and humidity. They log periodic samples and can show a time graph of temperature, humidity, and pressure. I found that 40%-60% RH results in a comfortable space. The higher humidity is a bit better tolerated when the space is slightly warm.
Why Monitor PM 2.5 and PM10?
Reference  introduces air particulates to a lay audience. We all know about lung disease related to coal dust, asbestos dust, auto brake dust, cutting and grinding dust, etc exposure in industrial settings but public health monitoring in the areas around the Norfolk coaling piers have found health effects from handling coal to unload coal trains and load bulk carrier vessels. So PM 2.5 and PM10 monitoring and exposure management is important if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms.
The Royal Sinuses
I suffer from non-specific rhinitis. That is, most anything in the air that shouldn’t be makes them cross. If it responds to antihistamine but not to analgesics, it is rhinitis and not something more interesting. The trick is to keep the swelling down and the sinuses clear of irritants.
I’ve found that sinus medication kinematics are faster in me than advertised. Most give at most 6 hours relief and I must use both H1 and H2 blockers. The annoyance is that the period of relief is variable and there is something going on at bedtime that I don’t understand. Is “bedtime rhinitis” a thing.
I’m using XYZAL for H1 antihistamine and Pepcid for H2 management. This was a serendipitous discovery. When I first started taking Pepcid, it was for heartburn. Heartburn caused by sludgy mucus that wouldn’t swallow. Anti-acid salts weren’t helping so I bought some Pepcid to try. I started taking it PRN in the evening 12 years ago. I noticed that when the heartburn stopped, the sludgy mucus had also stopped.
As spray saline became available, I began to use it. I found that it flushed the sinuses and was an aid to removing thickened mucus. But the squeeze bottles picked up bacteria and nutrients when released becoming contaminated. Recently, several folks have introduced aerosol saline. I’ve found these products work much better. But they come in isotonic (salinity matches interstitial fluid) or sea water strength (about 3 times the salt and drying). The isotonic saline is the one to use.
So what is causing the bedtime flareup?
I don’t know for sure but it is easily recognized. Usually there’s a smell like cigarette smoke (no smokers here). And a sinus headache. And analgesics don’t help. Antihistamine helps but both H1 and H2 blockers are needed.
Taking the dogs out at bedtime results in exposure to whatever is blowing about. On still nights, the swamp peat bog fires can be smelled. The sinuses are usually worse on peat smoke nights. So I decided to try monitoring PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate.
An Air Quality Monitor?
I decided to add one to see what if anything correlated with my discomfort. I wanted it to be HomeKit compatible. It would be nice if it could be graphed like the Eve instruments in the Eve App. What was out there at a punters price? ($100 or so) So I searched finding the QingPing Air Monitor Lite at the at Apple’s HomeKit page. This is the reliable place to look. Apple only lists compliance tested items.
Amazon and the Chinese Ali Market sell the QingPing products. Amazon fulfills orders domestically. The Chinese sellers at Ali Market ship from the Orient and order difficulties can be compounded by the distance and dodgy Chinese consumer protection law. So I ordered from Amazon. And it appeared in nice Apple/EveHome grade packaging. And it worked out of the box.
I installed the QingPing App on my iPhone. It worked as advertised. I was able to skip account creation and go directly to device recognition and firmware updating. Once the firmware was sorted, I added it to HomeKit using the EveHome app or Apple Home app. One of those. They both work.
Reference  does an excellent job explaining device setup walking through the views, prompts, and data entry. Home Kit News website did an excellent job introducing and evaluating this product.
Everything went smoothly thanks to the Reddit tip to start with the QingPing app. Not the the Air Monitor and the Air Monitor Lite are cousins. The Air Monitor has a color display but no HomeKit. The Lite has HomeKit support but a simpler yet adequate display.
Note that an early installation step is to select either QingPing protocol or HomeKit protocol. Selecting HomeKit protocol disables a Chinese market-specific automation environment integration.
The QingPing Air Monitor Lite measures the following atmospheric parameters.
- Relative Humidity
- PM 2.5 particulate
- PM 10 particulate
- Carbon Dioxide
Much to my surprise I found high CO2 in the lounge and opened a couple of windows to ventilate. CO2 in the concentration noted can make one drowsy. (So can sleep deprivation, Rocky & sinuses.)
The QingPing Air Monitor Lite is USB powered with a USB-A to USB-C cable provided but no charger. Fortunately, a regular phone charger works. The device has a small battery and will run for 7 hours or so on the battery.
QingPing App Capabilities
The QingPing App supports several products including the Air Monitor and Air Monitor Lite. The App provides the following capabilities.
- Device setup
- Device integration protocol selection
- Display units
- Environmental limits (North American or Chinese)
- Firmware updating
- HomeKit identity settings and room settings
- Trend plots by the hour and by days for the month
HomeKit News does an excellent job demonstrating the App’s capabilities and the device’s capabilities. I recommend you read their article to learn more about the monitor and its app.
QingPing has done a good job with the app. The trend graphs are bar graphs rather than smoothed curve graphs. Bars are color coded based on limit exceeded. Touching a bar shows the value at that bar.
QingPing in HomeKit
The Air Monitor Lite is a first class collection of HomeKit sensors with temperature, relative humidity, CO2, PM 2.5, and PM.10 exposed for use in automation rules. The parameters can be used for threshold control of HomeKit indicators or smart plugs. They may also be used in IFTTT rules. Usage of the QingPing sensors is equivalent to the Eve Weather sensors.
So far, PM 2.5 and PM 10 have been low, less than 10 micro-grams/meter cubed. But, both PM 2.5 and PM 10 spiked to 68 at 9 AM and returned to baseline about an hour later. I don’t recall what I was doing (baking waffles?, eating breakfast for sure). This transient did not correlate with sinus miseries.
A Candidate Automation
One thing I’ll try is to have HomeKit start the furnace blower when particulate is out of spec. The Ecobee 3 Lite has the ability to change the furnace fan between auto and continuous in response to HomeKit events.