If you’ve heard about radon and how it can get into your home, then odds are that you’ve wondered if you can check to see if your home is at risk. Lo and behold, you can check to see your home’s radon levels, and it’s actually pretty affordable!
Now, the more affordable options may not be the most accurate, but they can indicate to you if your home has a severe radon issue.
Most radon test kits cost somewhere between 10 and 40 dollars. The 10 dollar ones work great, and you can get your home’s radon test results back pretty quick with them too. Testing usually takes just 2 to 3 days with most radon test kits.
Now, there are costlier radon test kits and there are kits that are meant for longer periods of time, but I personally don’t recommend people spend too much on a test kit simply because there’s a better option for them once they hit a certain price point.
Once you’re spending around a hundred dollars in test kits–which you might end up doing if you decide to test your home’s radon levels a few times in a year just to be extra safe–then you might be better off buying a radon detector that can last you a lifetime. If you’d like to check out my top picks for radon detectors, you can do so here.
But most people will probably just test their home’s air once and call it good. If you’re in that camp, then please be sure to test your home’s air during the winter as that’s when radon levels are usually the highest. If the numbers come back super high, then you might want to buy a radon detector or a few more radon test kits so you can figure out some more accurate numbers.
If you’re ready to pick up a radon test kit right now, here’s an Amazon link to one of the most popular ones–spoiler alert, it’s one of the cheapest ones too. (It’s the one pictured to the right.)
It works great, and, again, it’s cheap.
Are Radon Gas Test Kits Accurate?
Radon test kits have a reputation for being horribly inaccurate.
While some of that reputation is well earned, I personally haven’t seen many people who’ve used the kits get numbers that are too far off of the actual numbers (which they get by using a radon detector). I’ve heard of a couple of stories where the radon numbers from the test kit and the detector were exactly the same as well, which is worth mentioning.
However, there is some validity to the doubts in the accuracy of radon test kits.
For starters, they’re super sensitive, and simply messing with them once they’re open can impact the results. There’s a whole lot of things that can go wrong due to user error.
Additionally, radon testing kits that are only 2 or 3 days long can’t be super accurate for one big reason: you’re only testing your home’s air for 2 or 3 days! That’s not even 1 percent of the year! Because radon levels fluctuate minute by minute and day by day, a short-term radon test can’t be as accurate as longer-term tests.
But that isn’t to say that they don’t have their place. As I said earlier, the short-term test is cheap and it gets you fast results that can give you a heads up if you’ve got a severe radon problem.
Due to the inaccuracies of short-term radon tests, most people recommend that you buy a 90-day radon test instead.
But they leave out something important.
Those long-term radon tests can cost a chunk of money. Now, before you freak out, I’ll tell you right now that these longer tests will still just cost around 20 to 30 dollars usually, but there are more expensive ones out there. If you decide to go that route, please be sure to shop around! (And look out for lab fees! There are “cheap” ones that then charge 20 bucks or more for the lab fees!)
How Do I Use a Radon Test Kit if I Get One?
If you’ve made it this far, then odds are that you might be swayed from getting a radon test kit and to get a radon detector instead because they’re more accurate, you can keep using them (or lend them out), and you don’t have to worry about lab fees. If that’s the case, then I’ll point out that you’ll be spending a chunk more money to do so for those benefits.
If that sounds worth it (which it is to me), then I’ll point you to the post I mentioned earlier that lists off the top three DIY (do it yourself) ways to test your home’s air for radon.
If you still want to use a radon test kit, then you’re probably wondering how you will have to use it.
Here’s a short breakdown on how to use a radon test kit:
- Put on gloves
- Open the radon test and unseal it (they’re sealed)
- Place the radon test on the lowest level of your home that’s livable (not an unfinished crawlspace)
- Ensure the rest kit is upright and on a flat surface
- Ideally, the radon test kit should be off the floor and a yard from the nearest doors or windows
- Wait the set amount of time the test kit is designed for
- Retrieve and seal the test kit (sometimes they come with bags to seal them in)
- Ship off your radon test kit to the lab
- Wait for the lab results to come in (the radon test kit I recommended takes up to 72 hours and they’ll get back to you via email)
The reason why you want to wear gloves is because the oils in your hands can interfere with the test. I might add that you probably don’t want to breathe on the test kit, or use any air fresheners or stuff like that around it. Ideally, you should have your test kit in a room that you don’t use a whole lot so there are less things that can mess with the test results.
Can I Get a Free Radon Test Kit?
I’ve recently heard about free radon test kits that are distributed by a small selection of government offices. These are usually county health departments or state government radon testing programs.
I’ve never used one of these, and I’d like to point out that all things government take a million years to get you results (think about your last DMV visit), but if it’s free, so you might as well give it a shot.
Now, I don’t know of any of these programs around where I live, a place where radon’s a pretty big issue, so I’m not making any promises that you’ll have one where you live. But, again, it could be worth tracking down if you’d rather spend the time hunting than the ten or so dollars to just buy a test kit.
What Do I Do if My Radon Test Results Come Back Positive/In the Danger Zone?
First off, radon is a known health hazard in any concentration, but it’s extra dangerous in levels over 4 pCi/L according to the EPA. The EPA recommends that people do what they can to mitigate radon levels over 2 pCi/L, but there’s a special emphasis on doing so if that number is over 4.
Picocuries per liter (pCi/L) are just how radioactive gasses are measured, and that’s what your radon detector and your radon test kit should be reporting the numbers with. Just know that anything under 2 pCi/L is hard to lower, and that the average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L.
With that out of the way, let me continue…
So, if your radon test comes back and the numbers are high, then you have a few options you can take.
For one, you can buy a radon detector to get a “second opinion” on your home’s radon level–just like you might do if you go to the doctor and they tell you you’re going to die. Second opinions are important, and they can tell you what you need to do next.
A lot of people buy radon detectors after a radon test kit’s results come back rather high, which is one of the reasons why I just recommend people buy the detector in the first place.
Your second option is to go about installing your own radon fan in your basement. For some people, that’s enough to put them back into the safe zone, or at least limit the amount of radon that they’re breathing. Radon fans can be purchased for 70 dollars or more, which is a bit of cash, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than the final option.
Your third option is to have professionals come in, or to do a bunch of work yourself to work on radon mitigation. These projects can span anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. You can choose to jump straight to this, or you can go through options one and two first. It all boils down to your preference.