Depending on where you live, you might not be familiar with radon. In fact, I wasn’t familiar with it before I received the AirThings Wave Smart Radon Detector. It’s a radioactive gas that can build up in homes, and is one of the leading causes of lung cancer next to smoking. It’s common in coal-rich regions, and is typically tested for with inexpensive charcoal detection kits. AirThings has its own high-tech take on radon detection with the Wave, a Bluetooth air quality detector you can mount anywhere you want to constantly check for radon. It’s a pretty pricey smart home device at $199 considering it has such a specific purpose, but depending on where you live and how big your home is, it could save you money in the long run while keeping you safe.
Radon isn’t a sudden danger like smoke or carbon monoxide. It accumulates over time and increases your risk of lung cancer. Instant spot checks for radon levels aren’t accurate due to the nature of radon accumulation, so you need to test air quality in a room over a period of time to get an accurate reading. This is why conventional charcoal-based detection kits need to be left in the same spot for days before sealing them and sending them off for analysis. Because of this, the Wave won’t trigger an alarm and tell you to clear your house because of radon; it’s meant for long-term air quality measurement.
According to AirThings, the Wave displays the local radon levels accurate to within 20 percent after a week, and accurate to within 10 percent after a month. Those are reasonable measurement rates, and while even the week long reading is a bit slower than charcoal kits, the Wave provides the benefit of constantly monitoring the air quality without the need to send anything away to a lab.
If you detect unsafe levels of radon in your home (higher than 4.0 pCI/L according to the EPA), you should seek out a radon mitigation service. There are a variety of systems to reduce radon levels in the home and prevent further radon accumulation, but they aren’t do-it-yourself home improvement jobs. They can include expanding and altering your house’s ventilation system, to the point of installing a filtered, fan-driven radon reduction system.
The Wave looks like a typical smoke detector, a 4.6-inch-wide, 1.4-inch-tall white puck distinguished only by a silver-colored ring around the edge. A circle of pinholes on the top panel indicate its speaker, while two larger holes near the edge mark the sensors. A colored LED ring sits hidden in the center of the panel, indicating the air quality by glowing green, yellow, or red when you wave your hand over the device. Overall it’s a great looking product that isn’t going to look ugly or stand out when mounted on your wall or ceiling.
The back panel of the Wave is protected by a magnetic cover you can attach to the wall or ceiling with a single screw. Slots for two AA batteries sit behind it. According to AirThings, the Wave can last up to 1.5 years on a pair of AA batteries.
You can track your air quality using the free AirThings Wave app for Android and iOS. The app connects to the Wave over Bluetooth, providing a constant reading of radon levels, temperature, and humidity. The results are color-coded, so you can tell at a glance if radon levels are dangerously high. A chart view displays measured radon levels over different periods of time, which is actually the best way to monitor radon due to how it’s measured. The Wave is Bluetooth-only, and doesn’t connect to the internet or your home network in any way; you can only track it using your mobile device when you’re in Bluetooth range.
Wave vs. Other Radon Test Kits
Wave has a unique benefit that can save you money in the long run, depending on the size of your house: You can move it around. Radon detection kits cost around $12 to $17, not counting any additional lab feeds (as a tip, look for kits that don’t have lab fees, even if they’re more expensive; you’ll save a lot of money when you get the results back). If you’re testing just one or two main living areas on an annual basis, you can go nearly a decade before the Wave pays for itself, and that’s a big risk considering it has only a 12-month warranty.
If you want to test the living room, the kitchen, the garage, the attic, the basement, and every bedroom in the house, however, you can do it all with a single Wave. Just move it between rooms on a weekly basis and track the numbers for that week to get a fairly accurate reading. It’ll be slower than using multiple test kits simultaneously, but it’ll save money much more quickly. And again, the risks of radon come with cumulative exposure, so the wait isn’t exactly the same as going without smoke or CO2 detectors.
The AirThings Wave is a very specific smart home device that serves its purpose well and doesn’t try to do much more than that. It tracks radon levels accurately and lets you monitor the temperature and humidity of the room in which you place it. That isn’t a whole lot of functionality for $199, but if you have a house in a radon belt and want to keep it safe without regularly buying and mailing off test kits, it’s very useful. On the other hand, if you haven’t heard of radon until now and don’t live in a big coal region, it might not apply to you at all.
For me personally the AirThings Wave isn’t of much use as I don’t live in a coal area with radon issues. For you however, that might be totally different and if so, then I highly recommend you picking up an AirThings Wave to keep you, your family and your friends safe.