Carbon monoxide, nicotine in cigarette smoke, ammonia, and formaldehyde are known to be some of the most hazardous gases around the home. But not many people know the dangers of radon. The National Cancer Institute mentions that radon is one of the leading causes of lung cancer after cigarette smoke. Having a home radon detector can definitely help lower your chances of developing any side effects.
Radon accounts for up to 22,000 deaths resulting from lung cancer every year in the United States. According to the EPA, while radon is known to cause lung cancer, those who smoke are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. For this reason, whether you are a homeowner or a tenant, it is essential to conduct a radon home test on a regular basis.
While radon gas can occur anywhere, it appears at higher levels in the Midwest, Southwest, and northern states of the US.
When should you test for radon?
- Before buying or selling a house.
- Before buying or moving into a newly built home (it’s important to find out if radon-resistant materials were used during construction).
- Regularly in your place of work.
What is radon?
Radon is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas found underground. It is a byproduct of uranium and thorium that occur naturally in the soil. Radon is released when these radioactive elements (uranium and thorium) decay. It then slowly seeps through the soil and into the air. Radon may not be hazardous when released into the open air as it gets diluted to safer levels. However, when released in buildings or enclosed areas, radon gas can be dangerous because it becomes concentrated.
Since radon is a colorless and odorless gas, you may unknowingly inhale it whenever you’re inside. That’s why many people use a special kit to detect its presence and levels in their homes.
How is radon measured?
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The average concentration of radon gas indoors is about 1.3 pCi/L. While no level of radon concentration is considered safe, EPA recommends that indoor radon levels should be 4 pCi/L or lower. Lower radon gas levels can be maintained through proper ventilation and sealing of cracks. Sometimes installing radon pipes to channel radon gas outdoors works well too.
It is essential to closely monitor the levels of radon gas indoors through regular testing. Higher levels of radon in your home or workplace require immediate mitigation action. Leaving it as is, can put both humans and animals at risk of developing lung cancer. It takes between 5 years and 25 years for one to develop cancer. Unfortunately, there is no cure for radon poisoning.
Some signs of radon poisoning are:
- Persistent coughing
- Coughing blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Higher vulnerability to infections like pneumonia and bronchitis
Note: If you develop any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Product review rating overview
|Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector 223 Portable
|First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit
|Best single-use radon detector
|Airthings 2950 Wave Radon
|Best multi-functional radon detector
|Ecosense RD200 RadonEye
|Best smart radon detector
|Ecosense EQ100 EcoQube
|Best cloud-ready radon detector
Types of radon detectors
Radon can be detected using radon detecting devices or radon detectors. You can install these gadgets indoors to continuously monitor the quality of air in the home. When radon concentration levels exceed the EPA’s recommended 4 pCi/L, the detector lets off a warning signal to notify the homeowners.
There are two main types of radon detecting devices.
1. The passive radon detectors.
The passive radon detector is manually operated and is generally the less expensive option. You can place these detectors in a specific site for several days before taking it to the laboratory for evaluation. Thus, it’s possible to perform periodic passive radon detection. Common passive radon detectors include charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, Alpha-track detectors, and Electret ion chamber detectors. These devices use chemical or electromagnetic techniques to detect radon inside spaces. You may need to use several test kits for different spaces in the home.
2. The active radon detectors
Active radon detectors are electrical and are often more costly than their passive counterparts. However, they’re more accurate. Their design gives them the ability to continuously monitor radon levels in the home. For example, these detectors will typically display timed readings after every hour. Most of the radon detectors you’ll find in this article, fall under this category.
It is important to note that there are areas that naturally have higher concentrations of radon. If you happen to reside in any of these areas, we recommend installing an active radon detector. On the other hand, if you live in an unfamiliar area and you’re unsure of the radon levels, you can first purchase a passive detector. This will monitor radon levels over time then you can invest in a more expensive kit.
Do home radon detectors really work?
It depends on the device. The average radon level in the home usually ranges between 1.3 pCi/L and 2.5 pCi/L. A good radon detector should provide accurate readings, particularly for radon concentrations above 4 pCi/L. However, this is not always the case as some detectors can give false readings.
The following factors determine how accurately a radon detector measures the concentration of radon in the home.
- Type of detector
Generally, active radon detectors are usually more accurate than passive ones as they collect data consistently, over time. This provides accurate readings and will instantly detect unusual radon levels.
- Placement and movement
The reason why many believe active detectors are more accurate is that the homeowner installs the detector in one position. It is advisable to have a certified radon professional assess your house to install the radon detector for you in the right place. Secondly, unlike the passive detectors, you don’t have to move active detectors from place to place. Thirdly, things like late shipping, movement during shipping, and wrong placement can affect the readings of a passive detector.
- Length of exposure
It is also important to note that the longer a detector is exposed to the air in your home the more accurate the results it will provide. For instance, even after 10 minutes of installing the most reliable digital radon detectors, they will give more accurate readings over 1 hour or an extended period of time.
Where should a radon detector be placed?
The highest radon gas concentration usually occurs in the lowest level of your home in spaces like the basement, foundation, cellar, or construction joints. Mainly, it’s locations around the house where it’s in contact with the ground there’s less ventilation.
Ideally, the type of detector you purchase and how long the test takes will determine its placement. It’s best to mount short-test radon detectors on walls or place them on a level surface above the ground in enclosed rooms. On the other hand, it’s better to place long-term radon detectors in the lowest levels of your home in rooms that lack proper ventilation. Also, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mounting your radon detector.
Here are some tips when mounting radon detectors:
- Avoid humid places like the laundry room and bathroom.
- While crawl spaces and construction joists often have higher radon concentrations, they are not the best places to mount your detector as it is bound to pick up false readings.
- Often document the readings for tests that run for more than 72 hours.
What should you consider when buying a radon detector for your home?
As we have already seen, the best home radon detector is the one that runs continuously and monitors radon concentration for days or months. Even so, it should be displaying accurate readings all throughout the tests. Here is what you should consider when buying a radon detector for your home:
You need accurate, reliable readings which require not just an accurate device but one whose readings will not be interfered with by the surrounding environment. Inaccurate results could be risky to you and your loved ones because of high radon concentrations in your home. Without a radon detector, it’s hard to know when the radon concentration reaches toxic levels.
Also, the longer the kit is exposed, the more accurate the reading and subsequent analysis will be. This is because you will have more data to determine the average radon level in your home.
Some things to keep in mind:
- If you are using the short-term radon test kits, be sure that the room is fully closed up with no open windows and doors for the most accurate results.
- Properly place and install long-term kits in your home.
- Always mount your test kit at least 20 inches above the floor on a stable surface.
- Avoid mounting it in places with high humidity or near interference by external environmental elements like heavy wind and temperature.
Portability of the device
Is your device battery-powered or do you need to connect it to a power outlet? Some places may not have an electric power outlet to plug your radon kit. In this case, a battery-powered radon detector comes in handy.
How large is your radon testing kit? Some detectors are moved from place to place to test different properties. Thus, a sizeable detector that fits your pocket can be convenient to carry around.
This refers to how easy it is for you to access the readings on your radon kit. If you are using the short-term test kits, how easily can you get the results from the laboratory that will analyze its readings?
On the other hand, some long-term digital test kits come with Bluetooth or wireless connectivity. This allows you to access the readings and analysis from an app on your smartphone without having to go to the device itself or wait for the lab results. This is more convenient as you will get instant alerts to toxic radon levels.
Best home radon detector in 2024
Below are the top 5 radon detectors in different categories. While some are passive one-time use detectors, others are long-term digital detectors.
#1 Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector 223
The Airthings Corentium 223 home radon detector is quite simplistic in design and portable weighing only 0.22 pounds (0.01 kg). It is easy to install and ready to use right out of the box. It does not require calibration or recalibration throughout its useful life. This detector’s design also adapts its readings to different environments.
This radon detector monitors the daily radon levels in your home over a long period of time. The easy-to-read LCD display records short (1-7 days) and long-term average radon levels in pCi/L to give you a quick overview of the quality of air in your home. You can have your first reading within 24 hours of installation although accuracy increases with longer exposure time.
The long-term average readings are often the true reflection of the radon levels in your home and will determine the next course of action that you will need to take. Short-term radon readings, on the other hand, will help you make small appropriate improvements towards improving the quality of air in your home. This device also allows you to run a self-evaluation report when you need it.
- It’s very accurate.
- The design is simple and the display is easy-to-read.
- It’s small, lightweight, and portable hence good in situations that involve movement from place to place. Simply reset it and test a different room.
- It is powered by three standard AAA batteries with a 2-years runtime which is included in its package.
- Short-term readings may not be accurate. This may require parallel measurements.
- Not EPA certified.
#2 First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit, RD1
Apart from carbon monoxide detectors, safes, and security cameras, First Alert also manufactures this innovative radon gas test kit in its home safety line of products. The single-use First Alert RD1 Radon Gas test kit is designed with simplicity, ease of use, and safety in mind.
This passive charcoal-based radon test kit is listed with the EPA Radon Gas Measurement Proficiency Program and is designed for 2-4 days of testing. Simply open the kit, and record the time that the testing starts and when it ends. Once done, mail it to the laboratory for analysis after which you will get your report in 3-5 business days after receipt. This kit includes simple instructions on what you need to do and the conditions you need to consider to test for radon concentration in your home. A noteworthy advantage is that you will not incur additional lab fees as the manufacturer covers them for you.
- Lab test materials and lab fees come included in the package.
- It’s an easy to use kit, safe, and testing takes only a few days.
- It’s inexpensive.
- No instant access to radon readings.
- Short-term records are often not accurate and reliable.
- Subsequent comprehensive tests may be necessary in case the results turn out positive.
#3 Airthings 2950 Wave Smart Radon Detector
The Airthings 2950 Wave Smart Radon Detector is a sophisticated digital detector designed for continuous long-term air monitoring. This it does very well thanks to its capability to monitor radon concentration in your home over days, weeks, months, and even the entire year. The three-in-one detector is also integrated with a temperature and humidity sensor to provide a comprehensive report of the air quality in your home or office.
This smart radon detector connects to the Airthings application via Bluetooth to deliver detailed analytics and reports of the air quality in your home, straight to your smartphone. The Airthings app is available for free on the Google play store and on the Apple app store. Still, you can choose to access the reports from the Airthings web dashboard or simply wave your hand in front of it to get a color-coded indicator of the quality of air in your space.
There are three color codes: red indicating dangerous levels (>4 pCi/L), yellow indicating that the air quality is approaching warning levels (2.7 – 4 pCi/L), and green indicating comfortable air quality (<2.7 pCi/L).
This radon detector is also compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT (If This Then That) digital assistants. It also connects to the Airthings Hub via the SmartLink functionality. Also, the package comes with mounting brackets and screws.
- It monitors radon, humidity, and temperature.
- The detector can have longer continuous monitoring for up to one year.
- The smart detector connects to an app, web dashboard, and smart assistants.
- It’s accurate.
- It is powered by two-AAA batteries which come included in the package.
- Additional cost for acquiring Airthings Hub.
- Readings are not available on the device.
#4 Ecosense RD200 RadonEye, Home Radon Detector
The new innovative Ecosense RD200 RadonEye model is the best radon detector for home owners who need to monitor the air quality in their home and get updates remotely where they are. It is easy to set up and accurately measures the level of radon concentration in your home within the first 10 minutes of installation. Together with radon detection, this device also checks the humidity and temperature levels in your home.
It takes 30 independent pCi/L level counts every hour and updates every 10 minutes. Frequent updates allow for continuous monitoring and more accurate results within a short period of time. To enhance accuracy, this device uses a dual-structured pulsed-ionization chamber that detects alpha particles to analyze radon concentration in your air space.
Information is displayed on the OLED screen at the top of the cylindrical device that displays important air quality information like peak radon value, time of the last measurement, one-day average, and one-month average and stores records for up to one year for long-term monitoring. From the same screen, you can set up an alarm to go off when the radon levels exceed a certain limit usually 4 pCi/L. You can also view this info in the form of a detailed graph on the RadonEye app that the device connects to via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The RD200 RadonEye radon detector is powered by connecting it to an electrical outlet or a power bank. Some useful additions are support for Amazon Alexa and a vibration sensor to detect errors during detection.
- Fast accurate results within 10 minutes and one hour of testing.
- It monitors humidity and temperature.
- The device and app are easy to use.
- It gives easy tracking as data is displayed on the app in a graph.
- Not battery powered and so not flexible.
#5 Ecosense EQ100 EcoQube, Smart Continuous Radon Detector
Here is another compact Ecosense smart radon detector. The innovative EQ100 model integrates a patented detection technology to not only deliver accurate results within the first 10 minutes of installation but also to deliver real-time information about the quality of air in your home. Like the RD200 RadonEye model, the EQ100 EcoQube model also takes 30 independent pCi/L level counts per hour enabling it to deliver accurate readings of indoor radon levels.
This unit includes a color-coded LED indicator that indicates the levels of radon in your home i.e., red indicates that action is required, amber indicates some concern, and green is an indication that no action is required. This together with other results is delivered to the EcoQube app data log on your smartphone. It is powered by connecting to an electric outlet.
It connects to the EcoQube app on your phone through Wi-Fi. This application is available for free download at the Google play store and Apple app store. You will receive an alert on your phone anytime the results have been delivered. You also receive alerts for high radon levels which you can share with your family and friends. Also available on the app is the radon information portal from where you can access valuable information about radon gas and what you can do to protect yourself.
- The radon data log graphs are mapped to time and value measurements.
- It gives real-time monitoring and fast, accurate results.
- You can find daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly data monitoring logs and trend charts on the app.
- You can enable data sharing among multiple users.
- One account lets you monitor multiple EcoQube devices.
- No data display on the unit except for the radon level indication LED button at the side of the detector.
Real-time radon detection and monitoring is important for homes, schools, daycare centers, offices, and other enclosed spaces. Not only to know the levels of radon but also to take action and be safe. Unfortunately, many people feel the effects of radon many years after continuous inhalation and with no cure to ail those patients. Those who smoke and are exposed to radon are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
If you find higher than recommended levels of radon in your home, seek mitigation help from a certified radon professional in your state. Mitigation involves the installation of a ventilation system, sealing cracks on your foundation, and taking other actions to increase air circulation in your home.