Paul, we agree with you that using our charcoal test kits simplifies things for the Professional Home Inspector and that proper Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) is difficult with a single continuous radon monitor (CRM). Thus, we DO NOT endorse using only one continuous monitor because they have all been known to have problems at some point in their usable life and you’ll need a mechanism to identify if and when things start to go wrong.
There are no national or local regulations that require the exclusive use of a continuous radon monitor during a preliminary radon screening test; however, because of the more detailed reports that some CRMs provide, some local marketing pressures have lead others to believe it is a better system than anyone’s passive test, including those similar to our charcoal testing kits. Some real estate agents will demand the electronic equipment because of a misconception that they are always accurate and fool-proof, but just because it prints an hourly number doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the correct number. Activated charcoal kits require QA/QC too, but the most difficult part falls on our shoulders. Users of continuous radon monitors (CRMs) have a little more work on their end because they are solely responsible for the accuracy of the device and the reports handed to the closing attorneys.
Essentially, a CRM is a portable radiation laboratory that needs to be treated as such. Not only do they need to be calibrated once per year, the EPA states that a CRM needs to be operated beside another recently calibrated monitor every 6 months. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have two of them with calibration schedules staggered by 6 months. In addition, you need to run frequent cross-checks with either another CRM or any other approved device at least every 10th test. These instruments are electronic in nature and since things can go wrong with them a solid QA/QC program, a Professional Home Inspector will notice that something is wrong sooner rather than later. Unfortunately many inspectors are fooled by the same misconception that as long as the unit continues to print that everything is OK.
Because there is a real need for electronic monitors with a QA/QC component, we worked with CRM industry leader femto-tech to develop a continuous monitor “blind” program, which we’ve offered to our Professional Home Inspectors since 1995. This program takes away some of the Inspector’s headaches because we act as the laboratory. Instead of having to come back to the office and print the data, inspect the hourly data for unusual conditions or fluctuations, try to identify tampering, etc., you simply plug a live phone wire into the modem and dump the data right to our computers over a toll-free phone number. Within minutes, you’ll have your 3-page PDF report, complete with color graphs, in your e-mail inbox. (A sample report can be downloaded from this link: http://radon.com/CRMrpt.pdf)
Our program exceeds everyone else’s QA/QC programs because we also provide free activated charcoal kits to be placed beside the blind CRMs EVERY TIME it is used. That way we help you by looking for problems with your device so you don’t have to. When problems are spotted, you’ll get a message from us to expedite the charcoal kit to us so we can evaluate the CRM test properly. We are the ONLY LAB offering this complete program. We have always done this because we use it as a “back-up” in the event the continuous monitor has a glitch, be it caused by tampering, electrical noise, or unusual weather.
As for the QA/QC procedures for using 2 passive tests, you’ll need to keep the kits in a dry storage area, place them according to EPA measurement protocols, and follow our test kit instructions of course.
Once you’ve done that, the accuracy falls onto the shoulders of our laboratory. Since you are certified, you will have to follow EPA guidance on QC measurements such as duplicates, spikes, and blanks. Duplicates are identical, side-by-side measurements, which you’re already doing because of the real estate requirement to use two kits. We both keep an eye on them to make sure that they agree. About every 10th house, you send in a blank (an unexposed device that is marked like a real one) to make sure we don’t see any radon. Then once a year you can send 3 of them to a radon chamber, such as Bowser-Morner, Inc. in Ohio, who will put the kits into a known amount of radon and you’ll send them to us without our knowledge. Bowser-Morner will give you the known level and then we can calculate the % error. Its not a free pass, but you don’t have nearly as many duties on your end, which is nice for the many busy Inspectors out there. We are often asked “why do we have to do QA/QC, doesn’t the lab do that for us?” We do a ton of the work, but we cannot mimic the field conditions that our inspectors encounter around the country. We need to make sure that everything is in order, so the only way to know is the perform the QC measurements from both your end and ours. Labs need that outside component, another point that inspectors don’t always realize. You also need to verify that the lab is doing there part because as a Professional Home Inspector, you are expected to provide accurate test results. If one’s lab isn’t dialed in very tight, couldn’t it come back to bite them some day.
QA/QC protects the Professional’s rear end, so it is a necessary part of doing a good job.
I hope this long reply did not make you sleeply. Thanks,
BV Alvarez, President
Air Chek, Inc.