Radon gas is a naturally occurring byproduct produced by the deterioration of uranium in igneous rock and soil. It enters the home through cracks in the foundation, slowly building up until it becomes hazardous to your health. The harmful gas can cause minor symptoms like ongoing headaches or could even have a lethal effect, due to its cancer-causing properties.
Radon exposure can happen in any home—including yours. A tasteless, odorless, colorless gas, radon cannot be identified with the mouth, nose, or eyes. Without hiring a professional, one way to know if you’re at risk of radon gas exposure is by using a radon test kit to measure the levels in your home.
The best radon test kits alert you to the presence of this carcinogenic gas by detecting radon levels over a few days, a few months, or through ongoing radon detection. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a radon removal system if the radon level reading in your home is higher than 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).
There is no known level of radon exposure that is considered safe, so it’s important to protect yourself and your household by using a reliable, high-quality radon test kit that will give you an accurate picture of the radon levels in your home. The products below are the best radon test kits in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector
- BEST VALUE: First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit
- UPGRADE PICK: Airthings Wave Plus Radon & Air Quality Monitor
- BEST SHORT-TERM: AccuStar Radon Gas Test Kit
- BEST LONG-TERM: Ecosense RadonEye Home Radon Detector
Types of Radon Test Kits
The EPA suggests a radon removal system be installed for any radon level reading higher than is considered acceptable. Radon test kits use several different methods to test the air in your home for elevated radon levels.
Short-Term Radon Test Kits
Short-term radon tests take between 2 and 90 days to collect readings from your home, depending on the manufacturer. You must then send these test kits to a laboratory to have the results calculated and returned to you. The lab fees and shipping costs are sometimes included with the product you purchase, so be sure to understand whether you will need to pay the fees.
Because short-term radon test kits are the fastest testing method and the least expensive test kit option, real estate agents often use them to test homes before selling. However, radon levels can fluctuate over a short amount of time, so short-term test kits are not the most accurate testing method. For definitive results, long-term testing is necessary.
Long-Term Radon Test Kits
Long-term radon test kits, as the name suggests, are designed to test the home over a longer period of time. One style is a single-use device collected at the end of the usage period and sent to a laboratory for testing. This type of device is more accurate than the short-term kits because it allows for a larger data set to be collected and reviewed, instead of the results being swayed by radon spikes, which are unpredictable highs or lows in radon levels that can cause false test results.
Another style of long-term radon test kit is the ongoing test kit or radon detector. The best radon detectors typically feature a digital display and will continuously test the air in the home, displaying results regularly and without the need to send the kit to a laboratory. However, these radon detectors are more expensive than the one-time use or short-term test kits, and they may not be necessary if radon levels in the home are significantly lower than 4 pCi/L.
Alpha-Track Radon Test Kits
The alpha-track radon test kit—and long-term testing method—tests levels of radon by means of polycarbonate plastic sheets that the homeowner places the test kit in the lowest livable level of the home. Radon gas emits alpha particles, which create tracks on the sheets. Higher levels of alpha tracks indicate high levels of alpha particles and radon. Once the alpha-track radon test kit has been in place for the manufacturer’s suggested time period, the homeowner removes it and sends it to a lab for testing.
This style of test is more accurate than short-term test kits and is a medium-range option falling between short-term kits and ongoing radon detectors.
Charcoal Radon Test Kits
Charcoal radon test kits are short-term options that work similarly to the alpha-track test kits, though they measure radon over a shorter period of time. The charcoal device absorbs radon gas over 2 to 90 days and is then sent to a lab for results.
These tests are the cheapest and quickest options for measuring radon levels in your home, but they are also the least accurate because they are susceptible to spikes in radon levels and interference during shipping for lab tests.
Digital Radon Test Kits
Radon detectors, or digital radon test kits, are the most expensive type of radon testers on the list. Their installation can be difficult, as each manufacturer has its own setup specifications.
However, digital radon test kits are relatively permanent as they attach to a wall, like a thermostat, and they use a sensor to detect alpha particles in the air. The digital display provides a continuous pCi/L reading, without needing to involve a laboratory.
What to Look for When Choosing a Radon Test Kit
Not all situations require the same solution. Keep the following considerations in mind when selecting the best radon test kit for your specific circumstances.
Accuracy is one of the most important factors to consider when testing radon levels. The longer a radon test kit is able to test the home, the more accurate the results will be, as longer testing allows you to determine the average level of pCi/L in your home without the influence of random positive or negative spikes.
Short-term radon tests are susceptible to spikes in radon levels that can skew the average. Because of this, they are considered the least accurate test option.
Long-term and continuous testing provide a much longer period of time for collecting readings, which allows you to better determine the average radon level in your home. These test devices cost more and take longer, but they are the most accurate radon test kits available.
Radon test kits are designed to be easy to use, both for the benefit of the consumer and to ensure accurate test results. Difficult-to-use kits can produce results impacted by user error, whereas easy-to-use kits will provide more accurate readings.
Passive radon test kits, like charcoal and alpha-track test kits, are easy to set up but require hands-on involvement during testing. You need to place them in a specific location to test the air and then send them to a lab for results.
Active radon test kits, like digital radon detectors, can be very easy to use once installed. A digital display continuously updates radon level readings that you can check at any time. However, newer digital radon detectors can also be complex, depending on the additional features the manufacturer has added to the device. Smart home–compatible detectors will require a level of technical know-how for ongoing use.
Ease of Installation
Passive radon detectors are generally very easy to set up, with most having instructions that specify a temporary location for them to sit during the allotted time period. These test kits are great for set-it-and-forget-it users.
Active radon test kits are more complex and can range from battery-powered units you attach to the wall to smart home–compatible units that require a fully integrated setup before use.
Consider your own technical installation abilities and your current radon testing needs before deciding on a test kit.
Our Top Picks
No matter what type of radon test kit you purchase, you want it to be a high-quality product. These radon test kits are the best available based on the above buying factors, price, effectiveness, and reputation.
The Corentium Home Radon Detector by Airthings is one of the first continuous radon test kits to use batteries, making it completely independent from outlets. The device is portable and can be placed in any location you want to test. For best results, always follow manufacturer guidelines.
The clear digital display shows on-screen readings of both long- and short-term radon levels to identify temporary fluctuations, but without allowing them to impact overall averages. These readings can also be generated through a self-inspection report without the need to worry about lab fees, and the device begins working within 24 hours of activation.
- Type: Battery-operated device
- Results: Instant on-screen
- Portability: Handheld and fully portable
- Battery operated; no outlet required
- Lightweight and portable
- Easy to read screen
- Measurements can be imprecise
The First Alert Radon Gas Test Kit is one of the easiest-to-use options available. Open the sealed activated charcoal packet, place it in the lowest livable area of the home, and leave it. After 2 to 4 days, seal it up and send it to the lab. Within 72 hours of lab receipt, the results are emailed directly to you.
This simple charcoal radon test kit includes the laboratory fee for most states (excluding New Jersey) at a very affordable price. For short-term testing and first-time tests, the price and results of this radon test kit are difficult to beat.
- Type: One-time test kit
- Results: Mailed to lab, results emailed after a few days
- Portability: Can be used anywhere, only once
- Easy to use
- Quick lab result turnaround time
- Impractical for long-term testing
The Airthings Wave Plus Radon & Air Quality Monitor is a more expensive choice for testing radon, but you get a lot for your money. It is battery-operated and can easily be mounted on the wall. The smart-home integration requires a more technical setup than most radon test kits, however.
Once it’s set up, the monitor will continuously test the air for radon, carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), humidity levels, temperature, and air pressure. All detailed information is readily available through the Airthings app or on its website, and a simple light on the monitor indicates green (good), yellow (warning), or red (danger) levels. If you’re looking for more than just a simple radon test, continuous air monitors like this are amazing for all-around protection.
- Type: Battery-operated smart device
- Results: Instant in-app and on-device
- Portability: Can be mounted on a wall or ceiling
- Monitors multiple air-quality aspects
- Continuous testing and monitoring
- Seamless smart-home integration
- Sleek, modern design
This short-term test kit uses activated charcoal to absorb radon and its byproducts over a time period of 48 to 96 hours. The affordable price for the kit even includes laboratory and shipping costs, so there are no unexpected fees. The canister that contains the activated carbon provides high-quality protection while the test is in transit, keeping the collected information and your test results safe from interference.
After sending the test kit to the lab, you can expect results to be available online within a few days. The AccuStar Radon Gas Test Kit is perfect for real estate agents who are in regular need of short-term radon test solutions for their clients.
- Type: One-time test canister
- Results: Sent to lab, results online after a few days
- Portability: Can be placed anywhere, used only once
- No unexpected fees
- Certified accurate results
- Robust canister design keeps results safe
The Ecosense RadonEye Home Radon Detector takes 30 independent counts of pCi/L levels within a single hour. This feature allows the continuous test kit to present readings within 10 minutes of setup and reliable results within 1 hour. You plug the cord from the cylinder into the wall and leave it on a flat, open surface in the area of the home you want to test.
Bluetooth connectivity allows the data to be retrieved from the RadonEye app, where 10-minute intervals of information are updated into a helpful graph. The continuous real-time and long-term monitoring provides an average reading over time, and an alarm feature will notify you if the radon levels in your home exceed 4 pCi/L.
- Type: Plug-in device
- Results: Sent immediately via Bluetooth
- Portability: Must be close to an outlet
- Several tests every hour
- Instant results via RadonEye app
- Unobtrusive design
- Easy to set up
For a lightweight and portable unit, the Airthings radon dector is worth a look, which is battery-powered and doesn’t need to be tethered to an outlet. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the First Alert radon test kit and receive quick and reliable lab results.
How We Chose the Best Radon Test Kits
When gathering our list of recommendations, we made sure to consider what we found to be the most important aspects of radon test kits that meet customer expectations—accuracy, usability, and ease of installation. In our research we found a variety of kits that stood out in their respective categories, whether they be full-time monitoring units or one-time test units that are sent off to a laboratory. Our top picks have something extra to offer depending on what shoppers are looking for, from plug-in units that provide regular readings straight to your smartphone, to portable and battery-operated units that are smart-home integrated, all the way to easy-to-use test packets that are ideal for occasional readings.
We also ensured that our list spanned a range of price points since we noticed that, depending on what kind of radon tester a shopper is looking for, the price can vary greatly—from around $15 all the way up to several hundred dollars for more advanced kits.
Before buying, check out the answers to some of the most common questions people have about radon test kits below.
Q: How does a radon test work?
Radon tests work by counting or tracking the amount of radon in the air. Charcoal devices absorb radon so that the radioactive particles can be counted at a lab for accurate radon level estimates.
Alpha-track test kits have a plastic film that becomes marked by alpha particles that strike it. These tracks are then counted at the lab.
Digital detectors use an air sensor to detect alpha particles, counting the number of particles several times per hour and displaying a radon level.
Q: How do you use a radon test kit?
Radon test kits are generally used by opening a sealed package, leaving the test kit exposed to the air for a certain amount of time, and then sending the test kit to a laboratory for results. Alternatively, digital test kits are powered by a battery or electrical outlet and may need to be linked to a wireless device before using, though not all digital models require an app.
Q: Where should a radon test be placed?
Your radon detector is designed to find out how much radon you’re being exposed to on a daily basis, so keep it on the lowest livable level of the home where you and your family spend the most time.
Q: What do you do if you test positive for radon?
If your home tests positive for high levels of radon, you need to contact a qualified radon mitigation contractor. They will be able to provide an estimate for installing a radon mitigation system that will continually remove the excess radon from around your home.