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What Radon Test to Use in Your Home

Utah Radon Services
April 25, 2023
< 4 min read
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Radon Test - Radon is an odorless, invisible, radioactive gas that rises from the ground into buildings in areas where uranium is present in the soil. When radon reaches high levels in a home, it can lead to lung disease, including lung cancer, for those who live inside. 

In Utah, 1 in 3 homes has dangerously high radon levels, and the only way to know your home’s radon level is to test for it. The U.S. Surgeon General, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization, and Huntsman Cancer Institute encourage every homeowner to test for radon as it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause among smokers. 

You may be wondering what radon test to use and how you know you can trust the results. We’re here to break it down for you!

What Radon Test Should I Use?

There are two basic types of radon tests available for individual homeowner use: activated charcoal and digital monitors. Both testing methods provide accurate test results, are easy to use, and will provide a good idea of your home’s average radon level. The primary differences in these tests are what radioactive decay products they measure, their cost, and their shelf life. 

radon sampler

Activated Charcoal Radon Tests

Activated charcoal tests are the least expensive and easiest to use. A typical kit will include activated charcoal, instructions, and a shipping bag and label to send your completed test to a certified lab. 

When uranium decays into radon gas, harmful alpha, beta, and gamma radiation is emitted. Activated charcoal radon tests absorb the gamma rays, allowing a lab to determine how much radiation was present during the test. The downside of charcoal tests is they can only be used once and they are very time sensitive. Once the test begins, it should only be exposed for 48-168 hours and mailed to the lab as quickly as possible. 

There are many charcoal radon tests available on the market, including free radon tests from Utah Radon Services. If you’d like to purchase one elsewhere, your local home improvement store or state department of health likely has radon tests that are reliable and from reputable sources. If you opt for an online purchase, make sure to check out reviews and verify that they provide accurate results from an accredited laboratory.

radon monitor

Digital Radon Monitors

Digital radon monitors allow you to test your home on a continual basis. This can be helpful as radon levels vary depending on factors like weather and air flow in the home. Unlike charcoal tests, digital radon monitors measure alpha radiation. A sensor on the monitor detects the alpha particles and creates a digital “picture” that is then translated into a simple-to-read number on the screen. 

This type of test has become less expensive and easier to use over the past few years. Because they don’t require a lab to read the results, it’s a good choice for many people. However, a reliable digital radon monitor will cost between $100–200, and some models reach up to $1,000. It’s also important to know that, in all radon testing, the goal is to get a good idea of what the average radon level is over an extended amount of time (think months to years, not minutes to hours). Some homeowners get worried when they see a temporary spike of radon on their monitors over a few hours. Unlike carbon monoxide, radon gas is typically dangerous over long periods of time, so a short spike isn’t something you would usually need to worry about. If you are prone to anxiety, a digital monitor may not be the right fit for you. 

How Can I Trust My Radon Test Results?

For activated charcoal tests, you can rest assured that your results are accurate if an accredited laboratory analyzes your test. There are two certification boards for radon testing and mitigation in the United States: the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) and the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB). In Utah, most of the charcoal tests available on the market are analyzed by Alpha Energy Laboratories, an NRPP certified lab in Texas. We use this third-party lab for our free radon test program. 

For digital radon monitors, the same rule applies: Make sure the monitor is NRPP or NRSB approved. Check out NRPP- and NRSB-approved devices for more information. 

Ready to test? Request your free radon test today!

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