Selecting a Radon Test Kit
Before you’ll know if you need a radon mitigation system, you need to conduct a test. Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it. When you’re ready to test your home, contact your state radon office (or visit our radon testing page for information on locating qualified test kits or qualified radon testers. You can also order test kits and obtain information from a radon hotline. There are two types of radon testing devices.
Passive radon testing devices do not need power to function. These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors. Both short- and long-term passive radon devices are generally inexpensive. Active radon testing devices require power to function and usually provide hourly readings and an average result for the test period. These include continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors, and these tests may cost more.
Understanding Radon Testing
A state or local official can explain the differences between radon devices and recommend ones which are more appropriate for your needs and expected testing conditions. Make sure to use a radon testing device from a qualified laboratory. Any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. The lower the radon level in your home, the lower your family’s risk of lung cancer. A radon mitigation system installed by a qualified (radon certified) contractor could save your life. The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picocuries of radon per liter of air,” or “pCi/L.” Sometimes test results are expressed in Working Levels, “WL,” rather than picocuries per liter of air. A level of 0.016 WL is usually equal to about 4 pCi/L in a typical home. With this level, a radon abatement system would be recommended. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. About 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. EPA recommends fixing your home if the results one long-term test or the average of two short-term tests show radon levels of 4 pCi/L (or 0.016 WL) or higher. With today’s technology, radon levels in most homes can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below. You may also want to consider radon mitigation if the level is between 2 and 4 pCi/L. A short-term radon test remains in your home for 2 days to 90 days, whereas a long-term test remains in your home for more than 90 days. All radon tests should be taken for a minimum of 48 hours. A short-term test will yield faster results, but a long-term test will give a better understanding of your home’s year-round average radon level and indicate if a radon abatement or mitigation system is necessary.
EPA Radon Testing Recommendations
The EPA recommends two categories of radon testing. One category is for concerned homeowners or occupants whose house is not for sale; refer to EPA’s A Citizen’s Guide to Radon for testing guidance. The second category is for radon testing and reduction in real estate transactions; refer to EPA’s Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon, which provides guidance and answers to some common questions.