Though radon gas occurs naturally in the world, it poses risks when found in high concentrations. Unfortunately, radon gas can collect even at home. To combat this risk, many homeowners purchase radon detectors to detect the gas in homes and wells, thereby preventing any potential adverse effects.
The Health Risks of Radon
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms as other radioactive elements—such as uranium—decay in the soil. The gas can be released into the air from cracks under a building’s foundation or from bodies of underground and surface water.
Local geology, which can vary even within a single neighborhood, determines whether or not radon exists in your area. It is typically present closer to ground level in areas like basements, crawlspaces, foundations, sump pumps, construction joints, rivers, and lakes. In confined areas and structures with less ventilation, the gas can more quickly reach much higher levels.
The National Cancer Institute cites radon as a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoke, causing somewhere between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths annually. Anyone who smokes and is also around higher radon levels is at an elevated risk of developing lung cancer.
The 6 Top Radon Detectors
When determining the six best radon detectors, we primarily considered accuracy and ease of use. Some radon detection kits underreport levels, so we sought ones that produce accurate readouts, and some radon detectors are difficult to install, so you end up paying for not only a radon test but also an installation service.
The six radon detectors below are the best, and the first two offer continuous monitoring. Be careful when making a purchase, as some sites allow you to buy used kits—but this invalidates the test. Always buy a new radon detector. Also, if you live in an area prone to high radon levels, you may want to invest in a digital radon meter that can be used for short- and long-term testing.
Family Safety Products Safety Siren Pro Series3 Radon Gas Detector
The Safety Siren claims a high price tag of the others listed here, but the EPA-evaluated device lasts longer than any other radon detection kit out there. It is a digital monitor that displays the radon gas level—both short- and long-term averages—and will last up to five years.
Pro: It offers short- and long-term readings and automated self-tests.
Cons: The price tag could be a deterrent as most other DIY radon detection kits are fifteen to thirty dollars. Also, the Safety Siren isn’t for sale in Iowa due to the state’s public health rules.
AirThings Corentium Home Radon Gas Detector
Corentium also features a higher price tag and offers continuous radon detection and monitoring. The device’s screen displays daily, weekly, and long-term radon averages. This radon detector should last more than ten years.
Pros: You can easily move the detector to conduct tests in different areas of your home—or even at your workplace. It boasts high accuracy, too, with a 5% variance.
Cons: Corentium’s detector takes three AAA batteries, so you’ll have to remember to replace them every couple of years.
Pro-Lab Long-Term Radon Gas Test Kit
Pro-Lab’s radon test kit is a much less expensive option, as it isn’t digital or reusable. It is a great fit for people who are curious about whether or not they have radon in their homes, but isn’t a long-term solution if radon is found.
Pros: The detection kit should give more accurate results since it samples your home’s air quality for an extended length of time.
Cons: You need to pay forty dollars for a lab to analyze your test kit’s results. Also, this isn’t the best kit for quick results—the shortest measurement it can take is three months.
RSSI Long-Term Alpha Track Radon Detector Kit
RSSI is certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program and the National Radon Safety Board. At a fairly low price that includes the analysis fee, this radon detector kit is a great deal.
Pros: It has a flexible testing period, from eight to more than ninety-one days, and easy mail-in process.
Con: RSSI doesn’t sell to New Jersey customers because of expensive state fees.
First Alert RD1 Radon Gas Test Kit
First Alert offers an easy setup and fast analysis. The company delivers test results, along with a detailed action plan, within seventy-two hours of receiving your radon sample. This is a great kit for home buyers, as the kit only needs forty-eight hours to test radon levels.
Pros: First Alert claim’s kit claims nearly 900 Amazon reviews, coming to rest at over four stars. It also claims a spot on the EPA Radon Gas Measurement Proficiency Program.
Cons: You are responsible for return postage costs, and the price does not include the lab fee costs for New Jersey residents.
Kidde Radon Gas Detection Test Kit
Kidde provides an all-in-one radon sampler bag that simply needs to be placed in the testing location for two to three days. Then, you send it to the laboratory in the provided return envelope.
Pros: This kit is great for short-term radon tests.
Cons: The list price covers the cost of the analysis, except in New Jersey, where residents must pay a fee of ten dollars to the EPA for results.
How to Install a Radon Detector
Install your radon detector at the lowest level where people spend time. For example, if you use the basement as a game room or workspace, perform a radon test there. Radon usually disperses when it reaches three stories above ground, so while you can install a detection kit there, you’re unlikely to gather a statistically significant sample for analysis.
Once you decide which floor to test, follow the instructions for your radon detection kit and these five best practices to get accurate results.
1. Place the detector in a discreet location away from windows and doors because outside air can affect its reading.
2. Avoid setting up the kit in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. The increased humidity in these locations causes some detectors to malfunction.
3. Also avoid crawl spaces, construction joints, and sump pumps. They can produce a false positive, or incorrectly high, result.
4. Document the test. Write down the start and end date and time for the test. This will help with comparing results and deciding whether to perform another test.
5. Interpret the results. Your home should stay below two picocuries per liter (pCi/L), a measurement that indicates average, year-round radon levels. If your home measures between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L, you may want to take steps to reduce the radon levels. Any result above 4 pCi/L should be confirmed with a follow-up test. If the result remains high, take immediate action to reduce the radon levels in your home.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can always hire a certified professional to assess radon levels. You’ll pay a bit more, but it can be worth the convenience.
With one or two of the products listed above—some people combine short- and long-term kits—you will quickly know your risk of exposure to radon. With this knowledge, you can rest easy or take action as needed. In either case, you’ll end up with a safer, healthier home and family.
*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.