Radon is an undetectable phantom that could kill you without you even knowing it. According to the EPA, this unstable element is the second-highest cause of lung cancer (after cigarettes), resulting in an average of 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year; it’s also the number 1 cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers. And for those of us who live in the mountains, there’s an elevated threat because of our innocuous little wood stoves and our wells. That makes the Airthings Wave Smart Radon Detector one of the most important home devices to come out since the smoke detector.
Airthings Wave Smart Radon Detector
I’ve had a few radon detectors over the years. Mostly ugly little things that clutter a wall and only let you know when things are dangerously bad, not just moderately bad. And many of them don’t even tell you how bad or for how long; they just tell you to get a professional to do the numbers. They, like, beep and that’s about it. The Airthings Wave gives you pinpoint radon numbers but also measures a few other qualities of your air. Humidity for one. Temperature. These are all facts that not only help you evaluate the comfort of your house but also the quality of your air. And in some cases, like if you’ve decided to get a very difficult lizard as a pet in the Tetons because your son really wanted a chameleon, those numbers become extremely important. But since radon comes and goes, the Airthings Wave can give you your weekly, monthly, yearly averages so you can see if maybe you’re getting more exposed to it than you’d want to be over the long run.
On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a quick spot check, simply wave (yes, that’s where it got its name from) your hand over the top of it. If the light’s green, air’s clean. If it’s red, something to dread, you might become dead (ed: this is not their slogan).
SetUp and Use
I literally just took the Airthings Wave out of the box, pulled out the battery tongue and it was working. The directions were simple enough – download the Airthings Wave App on your smartphone, then your Bluetooth will find the nearest Wave, link them and boom, you’re set up. It takes less than 5 minutes. You can mount it on the wall like other types of detectors but I just put it on the mantelpiece. With its design it looks like it could be a diffuser or another Alexa device; nobody would ever guess it was a finely-calibrated tool testing your air for the presence of deadly gas.
Airthings Wave Accuracy
Air. That’s about the most basic law of survival, that if you can’t get clean air into your lungs, you’ll die and, even more, you have no choice but to breathe the air around you (unless you have a respirator or something). And Radon is one of those freaky things you don’t think about until you hear about somebody dying from it or there’s a special PSA or something. But for us, mountain-dwelling folks, our love of woodstoves — also a necessity unless we’re gonna spend half of our annual income on heating, which also uses up fossil fuels — increases the radon in the air. All heaters actually do this to a certain extent because when they expel the cold air out, usually new air will come from the ground and that’s where radon is born, in the decomposition of minerals found in soil. A woodburning stove obviously sucks a lot of air out of the room, causing a lot of new air to flow in. And since radon comes from the ground, that well water brings a good collection of the gas into your house. The EPA has set 4 pCi/L as the line of demarcation for safe vs. unsafe but a recent Iowa study found a 50% increase the risk of lung cancer for women with twenty years of exposure to levels averaging 4 pCi/L. Mine has usually hovered in the 2 range but when I have a Sunday with a raging fire going all day, I’ve seen it approaching 4. If you’re somebody who always has the fire going and the heat on to keep a balmy average temp, you definitely need to get on top of your radon game.
Most gear I review is fun, and even if it’s life-saving it does this in a fun way or for a fun purpose. I mean, it’s kinda fun to be able to check your interior temp, humidity and get other beta for the air inside your house. But there’s nothing fun about lung cancer or deadly invisible odorless gases. I’m talking about saving lives here. Yours, your family’s, everybodys. Airthings’s sleek little Wave ($199) makes it immeasurably easier to be a responsible mountain dweller.