Home > Uncategorized > Radon Sensor Review: Airthings Wave Plus versus RadonEye RD200

Radon Sensor Review: Airthings Wave Plus versus RadonEye RD200

November 28, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is a continuation of this post.

Here we compare the radon readings from the Airthings Wave Plus and the RadonEye RD200 devices. For this comparison two Wave Plus sensors and one RD200 is used. There are no calibrated reference readings to compare against so conclusions are drawn based on cross-checking and environmental factors that can be controlled like opening windows and changing device locations. Conclusion: the RD200 device is fast and obtains good accuracy within an hour whereas the Wave Plus devices as described require >7days for accuracy and in practice produces readings that are confusing.

Beyond active radon mitigation, getting fresh outdoor air inside is effective at reducing indoor radon levels. The Seattle area is in a national Zone3 radon region which means <2.0 pCi/L levels are the average. However radon levels vary house to house significantly due to local geography and house construction and so it should not be assumed radon levels are guaranteed safe in even low to moderate risk areas. And even when radon levels aren’t high enough (>=4.0 pCi/L) to warrant active radon mitigation or strongly suggest mitigation (2.0 – 4.0 pCi/L) there’s still health value in keeping them as close to outdoor air levels as possible (0.4 pCi/L) as there is no known “safe” level of radon.

Our 1974 home is built into a hill with a daylight basement. When we moved into this hour earlier 2020 we brought our single Airthings Wave Plus sensor and started seeing slightly higher radon readings of 0.5 – 2.3 (average 0.8) pCi/L on the upper sleeping floor. Our prior slab-on-grade house was drafty and had no basement so it saw radon levels like 0.0 – 1.6 (average 0.6) pCi/L. While our new house didn’t have levels high enough to warrant mitigation, having a young family and spending significant time indoors working from home meant it was worth to double-check the data. At this point we acquired a second Airthings Wave Plus to get dedicated readings from the basement office. While it showed slightly higher readings than the upper floor I was still finding the radon readings from both Wave Plus devices to be non-responsive to the significant amount of fresh air being brought in with open windows and fans. This was suspicious as bringing in fresh air to dilute stale air is an effective way to reduce radon levels (page 11). At this point I started to question the Airthings Wave Plus radon readings altogether.

Here we see many times where closing windows and turning off fresh outdoor air causes the Wave Plus radon readings to strangely plummet and vice versa where opening windows and turning on fans causes the readings to skyrocket.

I started looking around for other data-logging radon detectors and found the RadonEye RD200. It uses the same radon sensor as their RadonEye Pro professional device which comes with certifications. Both devices are factory-calibrated and tested for accuracy of <10% at 10pCi/L in less than 60 minutes where as the Airthings Wave Plus is noted as only being +-10% at 5.4pCi/L in 7 days or +-5% at 5.4pCi/L in 2 months. That is the RD200 is significantly faster than the Wave Plus for radon measurements and in practice seems to operate even faster.

As soon as we purchased a RadonEye RD200 its readings made much more sense. Windows being opened and fans being turned on to bring in fresh air caused radon levels to drop and closing up windows correspondingly allowed them to rise back up.

Opening a window and turning on a fan causes fresh air to dilute stale air causing radon levels to drop. Closing windows and turning off air cycling causes radon levels to rise.

At this point, with a responsive radon measurement device on hand I paired it with the basement Wave Plus and moved them about the house to attempt to cross check their radon readings and to try to determine any patterns.

Devices were kept in the same room’s location from 24 hours to up to 4-days

LocationRadonEye RD200Airthings Wave Plus
Basement office0.08 – 1.84 (0.73 average)0.32 – 4.73 (1.09 average)
Basement bathroom0.14 – 1.28 (0.75 average)0.95 – 1.59 (1.27 average)
Basement den0.14 – 1.66 (0.85 average)0.24 – 1.11 (0.62 average)
Basement garage (very drafty)0.05 – 0.43 (0.26 average)0.46 – 0.59 (0.51 average)
Upstairs bedroom0.14 – 1.54 (0.63 average)0.14 – 1.24 (0.66 average)
Devices were side-by-side and readings were from same timespan.

Some conclusions from the readings:

  • Opening a window and turning on the fan to bring in fresh air into a room is very effective at reducing radon levels. When this is done open another window on the other side of the floor to allow air to vent out.
  • Upstairs bedroom averages were 0.5 – 0.75 pCi/L lower than corresponding basement readings
  • Airthings Wave Plus radon measurements move in directions opposite to expectations. Not a good device for short-term readings to determination if radon mitigation is working. Possibly adequate for medium-term analysis on the order of days/weeks.
  • Airthings Wave Plus can randomly record spikes in the data. When the spike in the chart below occurred I received a notification on my phone for exceedingly high radon levels at a pCi/L level higher than the data recorded. I recall it being a very suspicious value like 100+ but it didn’t occur to me to take a screenshot of it.
The recorded radon levels from the RD200 (green line) are much more responsive to fresh air mitigation and whether windows are opened or closed

Both devices detect radon levels independently of other environmental factors. Radon readings from the Wave Plus and RD200 devices were evaluated against other environmental factors to check if they were being biased. Initially it seemed like the RD200 was responding to temperature (a drop in temperature also showed a drop in radon) but this was checked by leaving the device in a temperature-stable location and there the readings still fluctuated based on air freshness. In the end both device’s radon readings appear to be largely determined based on how much stale air there is and existing sources of radon.

Radon readings compared to Temperature (F) and Humidity (%)
Radon readings compared to CO2
Radon readings compared to VOC

Two Airthings Wave Plus devices will read potentially very different radon values. Airthings only notes +-10% accuracy to occur within 7 days. In most of my household measurements between the two devices located on different floors the values have generally been no where close to each other. But by the end of the fourth day after keeping the devices next to each other we do see the values to start to move closer to each other so it’s possible with additional time they’d align. However it’s clear that Airthings Wave Plus radon sensors do not have the monitoring resolution to be responsive unlike the RadonEye. Being responsive is very helpful when testing different mitigation strategies.

Two Airthings Wave Plus sensors side by side read different radon values. Possibly corrects itself when left to calibrate after at least 7 days.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. mgmarino
    October 8, 2021 at 3:24 am

    Hey Ryan, Nice article, and interesting comparison between the Airthings and RadonEye detectors. I’m in a similar situation having purchased two Airthings Rn detectors, and considering rather something else because of the lack of tracking of environmental factors like airing out, etc. I was wondering if you have any changed opinions/updates after possibly using everything now for longer?

    Thanks!

    • October 8, 2021 at 6:15 am

      Hi, thanks! Maybe I’ll add a new article but briefly some updates since 10/2020:
      1) The RD200 is still in the office with me and its readings have still been consistent with my expectations given air conditions (i.e. lower in the morning if the window was left open for prolonged periods of time). Since it has a shelf life of about 5 years I will without a doubt buy another one or more from RadonEye in a year or few or consider any other devices they might sell given their tested reliability.
      2) One of my two Airthings Sensors has completely died and given it’s unreliable radon readings it’s unlikely I’ll be getting another Wave Plus (for its radon sensor). I do miss waving my hand over it to quickly check VOC/CO2 levels but with #3 below those levels have also been mitigated as well as radon.
      3) December 2020 we installed an HRV (Fantech Hero 150H-EC) to bring outside air in without needing to open windows and that has done wonders to keep radon levels (as well as VOC/CO2) reliably below 1.0pCi/l in our basement. I haven’t don’t testing to confirm the negative that if the HRV is shut off for prolonged periods of time that those air attributes rise because honestly the air quality itself is just so much better I don’t know if I could deal with smelling stale air again. =) Bonus: If you happen to also live in an area with seasonal forest fire smoke HRVs also commonly come with filters that can range in MERV levels to also filter incoming air.

  1. February 17, 2021 at 10:27 pm

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