What are the Best Methods for Home Radon Testing?

Dorothy Bland

The best methods of home radon testing are the ones that address specific testing needs, and this generally comes down to choosing among short-term, long-term, and professionally administered tests. A short-term home radon test is probably best suited for those who want to protect their families from radon buildup and want to take action as soon as possible. These tests are preferred by some because they are a relatively inexpensive option and can typically be operated without any special knowledge. Short-term home radon testing will usually use passive testing methods, such as the charcoal-canister test. The test measures radon levels in the home by using a container filled with activated charcoal to absorb radon gases.

In order to protect those living in your house, a short-term radon test is appropriate so that you can take action right away.
In order to protect those living in your house, a short-term radon test is appropriate so that you can take action right away.

Short-term tests can be done for just a few days when a very quick turnaround is desired or may be used if the home owner suspects that he or she is dealing with excessively high levels of radon. The length of the tests can also be extended to 90 days or followed up with a second short-term test to provide a more precise result. Due to their quick turnaround times, short-term radon tests are also utilized during real estate transactions, allowing the test results to be given before a sale is finalized.

Long-term home radon testing can be done for up to one year. These tests may be best for getting a comprehensive view of how far radon levels can fluctuate over time. They are also typically used in commercial buildings and regions where high radon levels are already a major concern. The primary testing device for long-term radon analysis is an alpha track test. This test consists of a small sheet of plastic film that acts as a detector; when alpha particles from radon strike the film, its tracks are traced.

Both charcoal canister tests and alpha track tests are passive testing methods, meaning the results must be sent off to a laboratory for analysis. Users who want to constantly monitor their radon levels, however, may find the best home radon testing devices are active radon gas detectors. These devices use electrical power or batteries and may be able to store data over a period of time. Due to the technology used in these devices, they are generally more expensive than their passive counterparts.

Although home owners can complete home radon testing themselves, in some instances the help of a radon professional might provide better accuracy. For instance, a state-licensed professional will understand the best locations in the home to place radon detecting devices. Additionally, active radon gas detectors usually require professional installation.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) radon tests are widely available to the general public and can be found in many hardware stores, home improvement centers, and from some mail order companies. The home radon testing kit purchased will usually include instructions that explain where the kit should be placed in the home and a prepaid mailer for sending back to the laboratory to get results. For greater accuracy, radon experts typically recommend choosing an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) radon test. If well water is used in the home, testing the water supply for an acceptable radon level may also be an additional method of ensuring protection.

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