How to Test Your Home for Radon

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How to Test Your Home for Radon. Radon is a dangerous radioactive gas naturally produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. The EPA and surgeon general recommend that all homes below the third floor be tested for radon.

Inform yourself by reading about radon. You will find state radon contact information at the EPA Web site and at the Radon Information Center Web site (see Resources).

Consider testing the air yourself with a radon kit. Make sure the kit meets the EPA requirements, and follow the instructions carefully to ensure an accurate result. Kits cost around $25 (a professional test can be as high as $300).

Seal the kit as directed and send it to the laboratory for analysis. It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks to get the results.

Consider buying a long-term testing kit, especially if you live in an area renowned for radon exposure. Besides long- and short-term testing kits, you can buy passive and active testing devices. Active devices require electrical power.

Consider having your home tested by a professional or a state-licensed tester.

Test the water, too, especially if your water comes from a well. You can buy a radon-in-water test kit or hire a professional or state-licensed tester.

Decide whether further action is needed upon receiving the results of the tests. The laboratory will report your radon levels in picocuries per liter (pCi/l).

Remember that one test might not be enough. The radon level in your home may change from season to season, as well as from room to room. One test may only indicate a potential problem, so test until you are fully satisfied that you have accurate results. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Take action to reduce radon only with the assistance of a professional who is state certified or certified by the National Radon Safety Board or the NEHA National Radon Proficiency Program. Remediation may include installation of fans, vents, pipes or soil suction; repair of cracks in floors, walls, seals or ventilation systems; and sub-slab depressurization.

Tips & Warnings

  • The EPA suggests the following: If a short-term test result is equal to or greater than 4 pCi/l, conduct a follow-up measurement in the same location using either a long-term or short-term testing device. If the test result is greater than 10 pCi/l, use a short-term follow-up test. If 2 short-term measurements are made, mitigate if the average of the 2 results is at or above 4 pCi/l. If a long-term follow-up measurement is made, mitigate if the long-term test result is above 4 pCi/l.
  • The EPA offers a map of radon levels in the United States. However, never decide that your home is safe because your neighbor's is, or because you've heard that your geographical area does not have a renowned problem with radon. Nor should you decide against testing because your house is new, well ventilated or well sealed. Only a proper radon test can reassure you that you do not have high radon levels.
  • The National Safety Council offers low-cost short- and long-term radon test kits through its National Radon Hotline. The price includes lab analysis and return postage.
  • Do not trust a radon tester who promises to provide results immediately. Finding out results usually takes time. If the tester claims to use a Geiger counter to give you results, be wary. Geiger counters cannot test the radon level of a home.
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