Updated: October 12, 2016
Best Radon Test KitsRadon pops up in the news every now and then, but most home owners don't realize that radon can be present pretty much all across the US. And if radon is in your house, your chance for lung cancer goes way up -- in fact, more than 20,000 people die each year from cancer caused by radon. The EPA estimates that 1 out of 15 houses in the US has high levels of radon. But what is radon? How dangerous is radon? How can you tell if you have radon in your house? Which states have the biggest radon problems? How much does radon testing cost? Radon is an invisible gas that comes from small amounts of uranium found in soil, sand, and rocks. It can even be found in your water if you have a well system (water that comes from surface water, like a reservoir, usually doesn't have a radon problem) -- you inhale it each time you take a shower. It seeps into your house through cracks and holes in the foundation and basement. People think that newer homes are radon-proof, but in fact they tend to concentrate the radon even more since they are so well insulated and sealed from outdoor air -- once the radon seeps in, it gets trapped there and can't get out very easily.
Radon is measured in picoCuries per liter of air, or "pCi/L". The EPS recommends radon levels to be below 4 pCi/L -- anything above that and you should consider getting a radon mitigation system installed. You should check out the map at Radon.com/maps to get an idea of which states have the worst radon problems. In general, the southern states have the lowest average concentration of radon, while the midwest and northern states have the highest levels. By clicking on a state, you will see a closeup view of that state with more detailed readings around the state -- and you'll see that radon levels can vary in different areas around the state. Keep in mind that high levels of radon can be found in just about every state - just because you live in a low-radon state, doesn't mean your house is safe. You need to perform a radon test to see what the levels are in your home. So how do you do a radon test? The good news is that radon testing is very easy, and pretty inexpensive. In a lot of states, radon tests are required when you sell a home, so you may receive radon test reports amongst all the other papers when you buy a home. If you have that report, then you already have your answer about how much radon is in your house. View top rated radon test kits here.
How Do I Test For Radon?Radon testing is simple with home test kits you can buy for about $10-$20. A number of companies make radon test kits, like Kidde, First Alert, Pro-Lab, to name a few. You can buy these kits online or offline, at about the same prices. As an example, AceHardware.com sells the Pro-Lab Professional Radon Gas Test Kit for $10.99 (plus $30 lab fee for processing and results). You can visit the Pro Lab site at prolabinc.com for information on their products, including detailed instructions on how to do a radon test - preparations, placement, filling out the data card, sealing the test units, etc. The big stores like Lowes and Home Depot also sell radon test kits. Target.com sells the Kidde Radon Test Kit for $19.99, which uses the activated charcoal method for measuring radon -- includes return mailer envelope with NO additional charge for lab analysis. One of the least expensive radon test kits we found was at Radon.biz. They sell the Air Chek Radon Test Kit for just $12, which includes the lab processing fee. It is a single kit, not a double, but these kits have been used in millions of homes and give accurate results and are EPA approved for do-it-yourself radon testing. To do your test, you place the kit on the lowest floor of your house that you actually live on - could be the basement, or could be the first floor. Each kit comes with specific directions you must follow for accurate results - like placing it around 20 inches off the ground, not to test in kitchens or bathrooms, keeping windows and doors closed for at least 12 hours before beginning test, keeping the units away from heater vents, etc. It's nice to consider a kit with two test units in it -- that way you can test 2 separate areas in your house like the basement and family room. Most test kits you will come across are short term tests -- meaning you usually expose the test units for 2-5 days, though some go for as long as 90 days to give you a more average reading of your radon levels. Most of the kits look like little jars or vials or canisters. You open them up, place them in a proper location, record the time, and leave them. When complete, you close them up and usually seal them with additional tape, then mail them back (in included envelopes) for lab analysis. Your results will be mailed, emailed, or faxed back to you, depending upon which option you choose. It can take as little as a few days to 2 weeks to get your results. The results will tell you the measurement of radon in picoCuries per liter - remember, anything over 4 is considered potentially harmful and you should look into getting a consultation from a professional radon mitigation contractor to see what your options are for reducing that radon level to below the safe level. The EPA recommends you do a first test. If it comes back over 4, consider doing a long term test or at least a follow-up short term test to confirm the readings. Again, if you buy a 2-pack test kit from the start, you can instantly confirm your test results by comparing the 2 results you get back -- there should be no need for an additional follow-up test. Even at readings of 2-4, the EPA suggest you consider looking into an abatement program (the average indoor level is 1.3). RECOMMENDED - We suggest that you browse the best selling radon testing kits here.
So if you don't know your radon level, spend the $20 or whatever and get a test done. Given the fact that most people spend the majority of their time in their homes, you want your home to be a safe environment for you and your family, not the equivalent of smoking a pack or 2 of cigarettes each day just by sitting on your living room sofa or bed. Be sure to visit the official EPA site for additional information on radon dangers, radon testing, and radon abatement: EPA.gov/radon.