A Guide to Buying a Radon Monitor
Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that seeps out of the ground. It is created naturally by the decay of heavier elements, such as uranium, thorium, and radium. These elements also decay, until it becomes lead. All of these decays release alpha, beta, and gamma particles. But don’t think for a moment that these gamma rays will turn you into the Incredible Hulk! Instead, these emissions can cause cellular mutations and damage, which can eventually lead to cancer. It’s estimated that inhaling radon is a serious contributor to lung cancer, causing some 21,000 deaths per year in the United States.
In the United States, there are certain states with dangerous levels of radon in the soil. Even if you manage to perform radon mitigation to reduce the radon to safe levels, the level can change over time as a result of severe weather and other natural factors. If you live in such an area, it’s worthwhile monitoring radon levels in your home.
We’ll see that there are radon monitors that are single-use detectors that you send to a lab for processing. There are also radon monitors that can give you results instantaneously, and even track radon levels over months or years. We’ll go through some of the features of the Best Reviews Guide list of radon monitors. You’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which suits your needs to keep your home safe.
What types of radon detectors are there?
There are two types of radon detectors: passive and active. Passive detectors do not require any power, while active detectors require a power source–either batteries or AC current.
What radon levels in your home are acceptable?
If the radon levels are under 1.3 picoCuries/liter of air, no action is necessary.
If the radon levels are from 1.4-2.6 picoCuries/liter, you should experiment with active ventilation and sealing cracks.
If the radon levels are between 2.7-4.0 picoCuries/liter, you should monitor readings for 3 months.
If over 4.0 picoCuries/liter, you should monitor radon levels for 1 month, and consult a radon mitigator to reduce radon levels. This level of radiation is the equivalent of smoking an entire pack of cigarettes a day!
What is radon mitigation?
If you notice that you have high levels of radon in your basement, there are several ways of mitigating the radon levels. For instance, a specialist will install an exhaust fan to pull air out of your basement and dissipate it outside, away from windows and doors. This ensures that the radon won’t get pumped back into your home. There are also ways of sealing the floor with plastic sheets, so that radon gas cannot permeate into your home.
Types of Radon Monitors
Looking at the products in the Best Reviews Guide list, we see that there are short-term radon monitors, and long-term radon monitors:
Short-term monitors: These are passive radon tests that pick up traces of radon, or the products of radon’s radioactive decay. The passive detector could be activated charcoal that absorbs radioactive particles, plastic film that picks up alpha particles (=Helium nuclei, from alpha decay), or an ion detector. You send the test kit to a laboratory, and they send you the test results. An example is the First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit. You open the test kit in the lowest part of your house, in a space no larger than 2000 square feet. After allowing the detector to pick up readings for 2-4 days, you mail in the packet to a laboratory. (The First Alert kit allows you to send the sampler to Alpha Energy Laboratories. The shipping fee is included in the price of the kit.)
First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit
Long-term monitors: These are active devices that work on battery power or wall current, that will monitor radon fluctuations every day. They’re recommended if you have measured radon emissions in the past and have noticed severe fluctuations between readings. A long-term monitor will help you determine the efficacy of any corrective action that you have taken to reduce radon levels. An example is the Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector. It gives results in picoCuries/Liter. It averages readings after 24 hours, after 7 days, and the last 12 months.
Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector
Another type of continuous radon monitor sends the information to your smartphone. The Airthings 2950 Wave Radon Smart Radon Detector runs on 2 “AA” batteries. You can move the detector from one room in your home to another if you want to make radon measurements in several places. After you install an Airthings app on your smartphone, the detector will send information to your phone, allowing you to collect data for weeks, months, and years!
Airthings 2950 Wave Radon Smart Radon Detector
What reviewers say
Readings fluctuate over time: One customer who bought the SafetySiren Pro4 Series Radon Detector said that he was pleased that he bought a long-term monitor because radon readings can fluctuate over the course of the year. In the winter, when the ground is frozen, but there is no rain or snow, radon gas has a greater tendency to seep out of the ground, going from an area of high pressure to low pressure. So, if you live in an area where radon levels approach levels where you have to take action, it’s best to monitor radon constantly.
Use a passive test as a backup: One customer bought a continuous radon monitor, but was concerned that maybe the device was giving false positives. He used the passive radon test as a backup–and saw how accurate his continuous radon detector was!
Here are some features of radon detectors that may help influence your decision:
Visual and audible notifications: Some radon detectors will give you a visual notification, such as Ecosense EcoQube Smart Continuous Radon Detector. It has an LED indicator that is green when the radon levels are safe, yellow when the levels are of some concern, and red if you should take action immediately.
Ecosense EcoQube Smart Continuous Radon Detector
The SafetySiren Pro4 Series Radon Detector has a visual alarm for the hearing impaired, as well as an audible alarm to alert you that the radon levels are too high. It will sound 4 beeps, much like that of a microwave oven, when the radon level exceeds acceptable levels.
Monitor air quality: You can find radon monitors that will also measure humidity, temperature, VOCs, carbon monoxide, and more.
We reviewed some of the offerings in the Best Reviews Guide list of the best radon monitors. Radon levels in your home can be a serious problem, and can have devastating effects, especially on children, since the exposure accumulates over time. Ensure the safety of you and your family–invest in a good radon detector today!