While you might not think about it often, Radon should be a serious concern for any homeowner. It’s a colorless, odorless gas, which is what makes detecting it challenging without the proper testing kit or detector.
Radon is released by the breakdown of uranium which can be naturally present in soil, groundwater, or rocks. It can enter a building through cracks in the foundation, construction joints, gaps in pipes, drains, or window casements.
Once it enters a building, it will settle near the foundation, and over time starts to cause health problems for people living in the building. However, unlike some other household contaminants, Radon doesn’t produce immediate symptoms in people. This makes it even more difficult to detect, so the only way you’ll know you’re exposed is by testing your residence for Radon.
I’ll break down some of the best radon detectors on the market today, so you can sleep soundly knowing your home is free of potential radon.
Quick Answer: 4 Best Radon Detectors
How does Radon affect your health?
Radon has a number of negative effects on human health including increased susceptibility to lung damage and lung cancer. Your odds of lung cancer from radon also increase drastically if you are or have ever been a smoker.
It can take many years of exposure to radon before health problems begin to appear. This means testing is the key to preventing a situation like this from affecting you.
If elevated levels of radon are detected in your house, remediation can be used to seal off gaps, in walls and floors, as well as increasing ventilation in basements and crawl spaces to vent the gas outside so it can’t collect inside your home.
Types of Radon Detectors
There are a wide variety of different radon testing kits and detectors available, from simple short-term test kits to more advanced digital detectors that offer instant radon level readings.
Let’s take a look at some of the different types of radon detectors in more detail.
Passive Radon Detectors
Passive radon detectors are designed for one-time use. These detectors use various methods of absorbing radon and collecting data until the sample is ready to send off to a laboratory for the results. The test kits often come with everything you need to get your radon reading including postage and packaging for the lab sample and the lab fees.
Below are the different types of passive radon detectors:
- Short-Term Radon Test Kits: Short-term radon test kits typically take between 2 and 4 days to collect readings from your home. These tests often utilize charcoal to absorb the radon in your test area and must be sent to a lab for results.
- Long-Term Radon Test Kits: Long-term radon test kits test radon levels over a period of several months. These tests use alpha track technology to collect radon over time – resulting in an accurate reading that’s less prone to inaccuracies and false positives. The best time to use this type of testing kit is during the winter heating season, as this is when radon levels are likely to be the highest.
Active Radon Detectors
Active radon detectors give you an exact reading of the radon concentration levels without having to send a test kit into a lab for results. This makes them more convenient than other types and gives you access to a highly accurate and up-to-date reading without the hassle of sending samples off to a lab.
These detectors are also more expensive than other types, so they may not be ideal for every use case.
There are two main types of active radon detectors, as explained below:
- Electronic Radon Detectors: These detectors are typically small, battery-operated units that will monitor your home for radon on an ongoing basis. These units are capable of generating both long and short-term test results, and many offer advanced data analysis.
- Smart Radon Detectors: Smart radon detectors are similar to electronic detectors, but connect directly to your smartphone or device to give you instant, up-to-date results whenever you like. Many of these units offer additional monitoring abilities, including carbon dioxide, air quality (VOC’s), humidity, and temperature.
Top 4 Radon Detectors
Best Electronic Detector
- Powered by 3 x AAA batteries.
- LCD screen displays both long and short-term averages.
- Increases in accuracy over time.
- No calibration needed.
Reliable, lightweight, and completely portable, this battery-operated radon detector is ideal for home monitoring without the need for an outlet. The on-screen display shows both long and short-term readings, giving you a quick view of both radon levels.
The unit is designed to increase in accuracy the longer you use it, after a week the reading will be within 10% of actual levels, after 2 months it will be within 5%. As radon levels fluctuate over time, having a continuous reading will give you the ultimate peace of mind.
Powered by 3 AAA batteries, the detector is guaranteed for one year, and should last for over 10 years of accurate reading. One standout feature of this unit is that it never needs calibration – so it’s ready to use straight out of the box.
Best Smart Detector
- Wall-mounted unit is powered by 2 x AA batteries.
- A simple hand wave in front of the unit gives you a color-coded air quality indicator.
- 6 air-quality measures include radon levels, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), humidity, temperature, and air pressure.
- Connects to your smartphone or device via Bluetooth.
If you’re looking for a unit capable of measuring radon levels as well as air quality, carbon dioxide, humidity, and temperature, then look no further – this is the one for you. It connects to your smart device via Bluetooth, or you can log into your Airthings dashboard for detailed data and insights.
The device is powered by two AA batteries, and can easily be wall-mounted anywhere in your home.
Once installed a simple hand wave in front of the device results in a color-coded visual indication of overall air quality (green, yellow, or red).
The unit features 6 sensors, which provide you with accurate in-depth readings of radon levels, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), humidity, temperature, and air pressure. These readings give you a complete picture of the air quality inside your home, so you can reduce negative health effects, prevent illness, and sleep better.
While it may cost a bit more than other radon detectors, the added functionality and ease-of-use make this unit more than worth the price.
Best Short Term Test Kit
- Single-use activated charcoal radon test kit.
- Results are emailed within 72 hours of lab receipt.
- Return envelope included.
This simple and reliable test kit contains everything you need to quickly test your home’s radon levels. The kit includes an activated charcoal radon sampler, detailed instructions, and a return envelope for shipping the sample back to the lab.
To use the test kit, simply place the activated charcoal sampler in the lowest living place in your house, and then wait for 2 to 4 days. After that pack it up inside the included envelope and ship it off to the lab.
Your results will be emailed to you within 72 hours of the lab receiving them. This testing method will give you an inexpensive and reasonably accurate reading, but it won’t be quite as accurate as other long-term methods.
Best Long Term Test Kit
- Highly accurate alpha track test kit.
- Simple to use.
- Deployed for 3 months to 1 year.
- A prepaid envelope to testing lab comes included.
When it comes to long-term test kits, you’ll have a tough time beating the reliability, accuracy, and low cost of this alpha track kit. It uses an advanced electrochemical etching process to record radon levels on its alpha track foils, which are then counted with computer-assisted image analysis equipment.
The test kit includes a prepaid return shipping envelope to the lab, and a data sheet explaining how to use the test kit. As it’s a long-term test, it’s designed to be deployed for a minimum of three months, but can be left out for up to a year.
This style of test kit will be more accurate than short-term tests that are used for several days. As the test kit will be collecting data over several months, it will have a more accurate sample of the actual radon levels in your home than a short-term test.
How to pick the right Radon detector?
As you can see from the above radon detectors and test kits, there isn’t a single best test kit for every situation. The ideal radon detector for your situation will depend on a number of factors including your budget, usage needs, and test accuracy.
Accuracy is a key factor when picking out a radon detector. The most important thing when you’re talking accuracy is how long the test will be conducted. Short-term test kits can give you a false sense of security or panic, as radon levels inside homes can fluctuate wildly over time.
A long-term test kit or an active electronic detector will give you a more accurate picture of the actual radon levels in your home. These detectors collect data over a much longer period of time, which results in a more realistic test result over time.
If you’re interested in the finer details, radon levels are measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) in the United States. A generally accepted safe radon level established by the WHO is 2.7 pCi/L or less. Levels above this require remedial action to lower radon levels down to safe limits.
Most radon test kits and detectors are fairly easy to use, with little to no expertise required to use them correctly. Passive tests require you to deploy the test kit in a specific location – typically the basement or crawlspace – and then wait for a set length of time before packing them up and shipping them to a lab.
It’s also best to set up the test somewhere without high heat or humidity (like near a hot water heater), as these factors can influence your test results.
These test kits can only be used a single time though, so if you want to have continuous testing, you’ll want to go with an active radon detector.
Active radon detectors are very simple to use once set up. You simply deploy them in an ideal location and then check the unit or your smartphone whenever you want up-to-date radon level data. This makes them more low maintenance than active types, as there’s no shipping off to the lab required.
Lastly, radon detectors can really run the gamut in terms of price. If you’re looking for a single-use test kit, then you can expect to pay significantly less than an electronic or smart unit.
Smart units are the most expensive of the radon detectors, but many offer a ton of extra functionality and testing options that justify the higher price point.