A radon detector is used to help detect the presence of dangerous levels of radon gas in homes and other buildings. Radon is a colorless, odorless and radioactive gas that has been known to cause lung cancer and other health problems in people who are exposed to it for long periods of time. In the U.S. alone, nearly 21,000 people get lung cancer every year from radon exposure. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
How Does Radon Get Into the House?
Radon can be present in the air or water, and is caused by the natural breakdown of uranium and thorium in the soil. The gas can seep upward from the soil into a home via cracks in the foundation or basement, gaps in construction joints, through cavities in walls and through the water supply. The level of radon present in a building can vary quite widely, even within the span of a few days because of changes in temperature or humidity. Without a radon detector, it is impossible to say if radon is present in your home, which means you can be exposed to the gas for years without even knowing about it.
What are Radon Detectors?
A radon detector is a relatively inexpensive device that can be installed in the basement or ground floor of a home or office building. Many US alarm companies offer radon detectors for purchase. Some radon detectors are designed for one-time testing, while others are designed for long-term, continuous monitoring. Radon is typically measured in terms of picocuries per liter of air, or pCi/L. Radon levels that are 1.4 pCi/L or under are considered normal, while sustained radon levels that are 4 pCi/L or higher are considered to be dangerous for humans.
One-Time Use Kits
Depending on your requirements, you can choose to deploy either a one-time use radon detector or a continuous monitoring device. A one-time use kit is typically recommended for short-term radon detection purposes. For instance, if you are planning to buy a house and want to make sure it is radon-free, you could use a one-time detection kit to test the home. A one-time kit typically consists of a charcoal canister that you would leave in the basement or lowest-living level in the home for a period of 3 to 7 days. The charcoal inside the canister absorbs any radon that may be present in the surrounding air. At the end of the test period, the canister is tightly sealed in an envelope and sent back to the manufacturer for an analysis. Because one-time test kits are not as reliable as long-term monitoring devices, experts recommend that you use two one-time kits at the same time and place to make sure you get an accurate reading.
Continuous Monitoring Radon Detectors
A continuous monitoring ion chamber radon detector can be installed in the lowest-living level of a home or office building. Such devices run on standard household power and continuously sample the surrounding air for radon. They can be used to generate short-term radon detection results, as well as averages for long-term radon levels in a home or office buildings. Many such radon detectors are calibrated on a 1 pCi/L to 999.9 pCi/L scale and are designed to generate audible alerts and sirens when sustained radon levels go over 4 pCi/L. In some cases, the radon detector can be set to generate a continuous series of beeps to alert the homeowner about elevated radon levels.
The devices are designed for homeowner use and feature easy-to-read numeric LED displays. Many such radon detectors are designed to perform hourly or daily self-checks to ensure they are working properly. The average price for a continuous use radar detector starts at around $130, though alarm monitoring companies might offer them cheaper in a service package. If you are planning on installing such a device in your home, make sure it is approved to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quality standards.
Radon is a potential health hazard that many people often tend to overlook or underestimate. The fact is that 1 in 12 homes in the U.S have high levels of radon. Without a radon detector, you will never know if your home is one of them, which is why the EPA and other experts highly recommend that every home should be equipped with one.