Molekule Air Pro update turns on air purifier's secret sensors

Molekule's Air Pro is unlocking some hidden talents, with a software update activating a handful of new sensors along with making the air purifier more responsive in auto mode. The upgrade – which will be free to existing Air Pro owners – comes amid increasing attention being paid to air quality, both from those who suffer allergies and anybody with an understandable concern right now about airborne viruses.

The Air Pro is Molekule's most expensive model, launched back in late 2020. Priced at a heady $1,199.99, it's intended for larger spaces – up to 1,000 square feet – such as bigger rooms in homes as well as business locations. Like the rest of the range, the Air Pro relies on Molekule's proprietary purifying tech, dubbed PECO, a combination of a replaceable filter and a low-energy ultraviolet light which the company says both traps pollutants and then destroys them.

When it debuted, however, the Air Pro wasn't taking full advantage of all the hardware that Molekule had built in. Originally, the air purifier would detect particulate matter (PM) 1, 2.5, and 10 using a small sensor low down on the unit. The numbers relate to the particle size: coarse at one end, such as pollen, mold, and dander; through fine such as dust and bacteria; and finally microfine, like smoke particles, bacteria, and more.

Molekule is now turning on a set of extra sensors. They'll measure VOCs (volatile organic compounds, such as those which "off-gas" from new furniture and appliances), CO2 levels, and relative humidity.

The result, the company says, is a more comprehensive insight into the health levels of the room. It's worth noting that Molekule's purification system hasn't actually changed: the Air Pro was already tackling VOCs, for example. Now, though, it's easier to see the impact there.

At the opposite end of the complexity scale, there's now a new – simpler – way to figure out how clean the air in a space is. Molekule Air Score is a single figure that aggregates all of the particulate matter and chemical levels that the various sensors have detected. Scored from 1 through to 500, you get a numerical read-out on the Air Pro's display as well as color classification for the good, moderate, bad, and very bad ratings.

Swiping across that circular touchscreen – or opening the Molekule app – unlocks more granular numbers. You can see scores for the three different sizes of particulate matter, relative humidity, and VOCs levels, again color-coded.

The new sensors also affect the Auto Protect modes. The Air Pro has two – Standard and Quiet, the latter prioritizing lower noise – with the fan adjusting speed automatically depending on the air conditions in the space. Until now, Auto Protect would only make that adjustment based on particulate matter, however; with this software update, it can also take into account VOCs and more.

Without a lab full of equipment, of course, it's tricky to say exactly what impact an air purifier is actually making. Certainly, in a smoky kitchen, the Air Pro cranked up its fan levels automatically – you can adjust them manually across six levels, too, with the purifier sounding positively jet-turbine-like at its maximum – until things smelled cleaner. For the rest, we have to take third-party testing at its word: Molekule says that independent studies have shown its filtration system can remove airborne viruses like MS2 bacteriophage, for example, a commonly-used proxy for SARS-CoV-2 in testing.

It's fair to say that awareness of air quality has shifted into the mainstream over the past couple of years. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends air cleaners as part of a COVID-19 mitigation strategy; the FDA has already granted Molekule's Air Mini and Air Mini+ – which use the same PECO filter system as the Air Pro – FDA 510(k) class II medical device clearance for how they handle MS2 bacteriophage.

That's not to suggest an Air Pro – or any filter system – is sufficient in and of itself to stop you from catching COVID-19 or any airborne virus. The usual masking, vaccinations, social distancing, and general common-sense are also required. Still, as insights into the health of our living spaces go, we'll always say yes to more data than less. Molekule's update to the Air Pro is rolling out from today, as a free update to the purifier.