The Homeowner's Guide to Radon Testing

Find out everything you need to know about radon and your home.

There’s only one way to definitively measure radon levels in your home: an assessment by an experienced professional. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends all homes be tested for radon periodically. No two structures will ever have the same levels of radon as architectural elements, style and location impact ventilation and airflow.

Before inviting a professional inspector into your home or property, you’ll likely want to know a little more about radon detection and testing. Continue reading to learn about the radon inspection process, how we get exposed to radon in the first place and why you should hire a skilled AmeriSpec radon inspector.

How Radon Enters the Home

Any building can have unsafe levels of radon. It doesn’t matter if your home is new or traditional, has a full basement, features a crawl space or is built on a concrete slab. Radon levels cannot be predicted based on state, local or even neighborhood trends—it must be checked at individual properties.

Typically, radon moves up through soil and dirt and into the air. All homes, regardless of their build quality, have small cracks, gaps and possibly even holes in their foundation. Eventually, radon gas from soil seeps its way into these foundation crevices. Because of variances in air pressure, a house can essentially act as a vacuum, sucking in radon gas through even the most minor foundation openings. Once inside the foundation, radon gas spreads throughout the rest of the home and contaminates the air occupants breathe. For more information regarding the long term health repercussions of radon inhalation, read our article covering the history of radon poisoning.

Although less common, radon gas may be present in the ground water surrounding your home as well. When we use wells to tap groundwater for showering and household necessities, radon is released into our homes. The process of radon being released from water is actually somewhat similar to when we drink soda. When we open a soda bottle or can, carbonation from the beverage itself is released as carbon dioxide into the air. Comparably, when we use water with radon in our homes, radon is released into the breathable air surrounding us.

To assure the quality of your well water with an extensive analysis, contact your local AmeriSpec professional and ask for a well water quality test. A well water test can measure for a range of quality parameters, including radon levels.

Radon Tests: The AmeriSpec Process

Not all AmeriSpec inspectors offer radon testing services, but depending on your location, finding a qualified AmeriSpec inspector near you who can carry out an accurate and reliable radon test will be simple. Our inspectors are conscientious and comprehensive, respecting your home or property and those who reside there. AmeriSpec inspectors who provide specialty services frequently receive customized training for each specific service they offer.

AmeriSpec radon gas inspectors adjust their methodology according to the unique needs of your home. Before any test is carried out, your AmeriSpec professional may ask you to close all your windows and doors for a few days, besides normal entry and exit. This facilitates accurate radon measurements. In general, there are two types of devices that test for radon: passive devices and active devices.

Passive Radon Devices

Passive radon devices do not require power to operate. Usually, they function by trapping radon in the device and facilitating a chemical reaction. Many passive devices then require lab analysis after the initial testing phase. A wide range of passive devices exists including charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors and electric ion detectors.

-Charcoal canisters come with a metal canister filled with activated charcoal. Any radon or associated chemicals in the air attach to the charcoal, which is later sent to a lab for analysis and level verification.

-Alpha track detectors function because of an internal element called a foil. Radon atoms collect inside the detector, ultimately decaying and releasing what scientists label alpha particles. When these atoms hit the foil, they leave tracks that can then be analyzed and measured.

-Electret ion detectors contain a Teflon disc that undergoes a special electrostatic charge. Radon, when trapped inside the detector, decays and produces ions. These ions end up interacting with the Teflon disc, lowering its overall electrical charge.

While it is true that some passive testing devices can be purchased and set up yourself, there are quite a few limitations associated with the do-it-yourself method. If the steps of the testing process are not adhered to precisely, the results can be distorted, giving you an inaccurate overall radon measurement. Mailing the test off to a laboratory is another step you’ll be responsible for should you purchase a passive testing device. When you hire an AmeriSpec radon inspector, they’ll handle all the steps in the inspection process for you, giving you the peace of mind that every step was executed with professionalism and expertise.

Active Radon Devices

Unlike passive devices, active radon devices do require energy to function. Usually, these devices include monitoring equipment that operate continuously. They are normally more technologically sophisticated than passive devices and require advanced, professional training to operate capably.

Radon is measured in the unit picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). This is an indicator of radioactivity. On average, indoor levels in the U.S. are at about 1.3 pCi/L. Outside, in normal conditions, one might expect a reading of 0.4 pCi/L. If levels are at 4.0 pCi/L or above, immediate reduction action should be taken.

Radon is a national health problem that you should address in your home with an inspection. AmeriSpec is proud of our extensive network of licensed professional inspectors. We’ve been operating as home inspection experts for over 30 years, providing comprehensive inspections to countless families. Contact your local AmeriSpec radon inspector today to start the process to a safer home.