Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?
by Greg Gazin
Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for radon for a minimum of three months.
It lurks in your home, but it’s invisible. You can’t see or smell it, but it may just be putting your life at risk. It’s not carbon dioxide – it’s radon gas. Most of us have heard of it, but according to Health Canada, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer – after smoking.
It doesn’t matter if you’re living in a new home or one from the turn of the century, every home has some level of radon – and it’s that level that determines the potential hazard.
Radon is produced naturally by the decomposition of uranium in the soil under your home. It travels in the form of an invisible gas that seeps into your home because of the differences in indoor and outdoor air pressure. It makes its way through openings like floor drains and sump pumps, as well as foundation and floor cracks, and tiny gaps around pipes that enter the home. As a result, it’s more likely to be more concentrated in basements and crawl spaces, rather than upper levels.
Don’t hit the panic button. Unlike carbon monoxide, or fumes from a fire, that pose immediate danger, radon is something that can be hazardous over time. A professional can test for radon levels in your home, or you can do it yourself with a detection system called Wave.
By Airthings, the Wave looks similar to a typical smoke detector. Once the Wave is installed, initial test results are available within an hour by simply waving your hand across the face of the device – thus the name. If everything is OK, a glow ring will turn green. Like a stop light, it will turn yellow for caution, and red if the reading is in the danger zone – exceeding acceptable standards, which according to Health Canada is 200 Bq/m3.
The beauty of the Wave system is that you get real results from the free companion app. Unlike other test kits, you don’t have to send the data to a lab for analysis. You simply pair the Wave with your iOS, or Android smartphone or tablet, and it will keep track of the radon levels, as well as the humidity levels and the temperature in the room. In addition to tracking current values, you can also plot an historical graph over the previous 48 hours, week, month or year. The app is also designed to track multiple Wave units, labelled as basement, dining room, etc.
You can receive notifications through the app, and receive email and audio alerts when the radon is too high, as well as sync current information when you are within Bluetooth range of the device.
Since radon levels are always fluctuating, the longer the test period, the more accurate your results. In fact, Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for radon for a minimum of three months – ideally during the heating season when windows are closed.
If radon levels consistently read high, call in a professional to help determine what remedial action should be taken to mitigate the situation.
Wave comes with a magnetic plate that can be mounted on any wall with a single screw, and is powered by two AA batteries (included). The Wave retails for $249.99, and is available at Best Buy and The Home Depot.
For more information on radon, and its risks, visit Health Canada’s web section at canada.ca.
|Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.|