Geiger Counter, Radiation Detector, and Dosimeter Reviews and Ranking

For more than 6 years we’ve compared, reviewed, and rated the world’s most popular handheld Geiger counter. While most portable Geiger counters appear similar, the fact is there are important differences in features, performance, and functionality. Our focus is on personal geiger counters within the consumer/commercial mid-range, from $100-$600. We looked at functionality, construction, ease of use and of course, price – 6 dosimeters that illustrate the breadth of product offering now available.

 

At one time I was also looking for a Geiger counter to warn about potential radiation hazards, whether from radon laced granite countertops, contaminated scrap metal, nuclear plant discharge, depleted uranium waste, or even something as simple as in-flight atmospheric background radiation. I was shocked to learn how much low-level radiation we’re exposed to every day. Even at home there are unexpected sources I hadn’t ever considered. Now with the possibility of a dirty bomb attack even more apparent, it’s easy to see the benefits of owning a personal dosimeter to tell me if I’m being exposed to harmful levels of radioactivity, and to protect me in case the unthinkable becomes a reality.

Top Selling Geiger Counters of 2016

 

Effective Use of a Geiger Counter

A Geiger counter is a device which can accurately measure the radiation being given off within a certain area or from a specific object. Based around a Geiger–Müller tube which responds to ionizing radiation, the Geiger counter provides a relatively inexpensive way to measure alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. There are good reasons to know exactly what kind of radiation is in the area around you. Some examples include mining, excavating, visiting known radioactive locations, and early detection of Radon related radiation in your home.

It is important to know what these different kinds of radiation are in order to understand the best uses of a Geiger counter.

Alpha radiation is when a radioactive atom ejects a particle consisting of two protons without neutrons or electrons. Alpha radiation changes the emitting nucleus into one with a lower atomic number. As an example, uranium-238 decays into thorium-236 by way of alpha radiation. Alpha particles are by far the largest of any radiation and can be blocked by a single piece of paper.

Beta radiation is when one of a radioactive atom’s neutrons ejects a particle consisting of a single electron. The result is that the neutron is converted into a proton, which increases the atomic number of the element. As an example, carbon-14 decays into nitrogen-14 by way of beta radiation. Beta particles are the second largest in radiation emissions, though still much smaller than alpha particles. These can be blocked by sufficiently thick wood or about 1/8″ thick aluminum.

Gamma radiation is electromagnetic radiation, as opposed to strict particle radiation. It does not change the mass or charge of the atom which emits it. Gamma radiation is often associated with alpha or beta radiation, as it results from an atom’s need to relieve stored energy from other types of radioactive decay. Gamma radiation and x-radiation are essentially the same thing and can be blocked by lead.

Radiation is quite literally all around us, forming a feature known as “background radiation.” The average global individual is exposed to about 2.4 millisieverts (mSv) per year from natural sources. By law in the US, the maximum allowable dose for radiation workers is 50 mSv. A person generally exhibits symptoms of radiation sickness when exposed to 400 mSv within a short time. For reference purposes, the observed radiation inside a nuclear power plant can be .130 microsieverts (µSv) per hour, culminating in an annual dosage of 1.13 mSv per year.

Geiger counters consist three major parts: the Geiger–Müller tube for detection, a visual display, and an audio readout. Different models will measure radiation in milli-Roentgens per hour or µSv per hour (depending on preference) via the visual display. The audio readout is the portion which makes the famous clicking sound that many people are familiar with. Slow, periodic clicking generally indicates safety. If the clicking increases to a rapid pace or sounds more like static fuzz there is likely a dangerous amount of radiation nearby.

In application, Geiger counters can provide a useful purpose. Improperly sealed basements can become home to deposits of radon gas. This can become dangerous over time if the concentration of radon builds. Higher concentrations will expose anyone living in the home to increased radiation levels. Mineral hobbyists can find out if their favorite digging site or pieces are giving them extra doses of radiation. This is of particular interest in areas with higher granite concentrations. Other collectors may find mild radiation in older items like jewelry, watches, and pottery.

An effective way of testing whether a given object is emitting radiation is to note the levels of background radiation in a given area, then move the counter closer to the source in question without pointing the detector at the supposed source. If the radiation levels increase, the source is likely emitting gamma or high energy beta radiation. Next, insert a 1/8″ piece of aluminum between the counter and source. If the reading decreases, it is beta radiation. If no radiation is noticed through the housing of the counter, use the detector to look for increases. By inserting foil or paper between the source and detector, you will be able to determine if the source is beta or alpha radiation respectively.

Our #1 Pick is the PRM-9000 Geiger Counter by Mazur Instruments

mazur-prm9000-lg

Manufactured in America, the PRM-9000 is the latest addition to Mazur Instrument’s line of digital pocket Geiger counters. It features a large 2”, pancake-style Geiger-Mueller tube, the industry benchmark for low-level radiation detection. Indeed, the improved sensitivity of the Mazur PRM-9000 combined with real-time data collection, make it…Continue Reading>>>

Our #2 Pick is the Inspector Alert Handheld Detector by S.E. International

 

inspector-alert-lg

The Radiation Alert Inspector, built by S.E International, is a versatile Geiger counter designed both for the casual user as well as industrial users and emergency responders. The Alert Inspector has been around a while and has stood the test of time. This is a handheld that really belongs in everyone’s survival kit, especially if you live near a nuclear power plant…Continue Reading>>>

Our #3 Pick is the Quantum Pro Portable Geiger Counter by SOEKS

soek-geiger-counter

 

 

Being a little older, when I learned the new Soeks Quantum Geiger counter was designed and built in Russia, I was a little skeptical. However, after 15 years the Soviet Union is long gone and in its place exists a flat tax entrepreneurial economy fully capable of turning legacy technology into modern world-class products. …Continue Reading>>>

Our #4 Pick is the Gamma-Scout® Online Portable Radiation Detector

Gamma Scout

 

Coming in at 4th Place is the Gamma-Scout Online Handheld Radiation Detector. Weighing a trim 6 ounces, it’s surprisingly light and compact, giving the impression of being a bit fragile. However, what it lacks in case strength it makes up for in rich functionality. While other Geiger counters offer basic radiation detection plus some minor enhancements …Continue Reading>>>

Our #5 Pick is the MKS 05 Terra Pro Portable Geiger Counter by Ecotest

MKS 05 Terra Pro

 

The MKS 05 Terra Pro by Ecotest is a Ukrainian built counter that gets good marks for a clean, modern look and simple operating controls. It’s a relative newcomer with quite a few showing up recently on Amazon. At first, we expected a primitive design given the location of factory. However we were pleasantly surprised at the modern workmanship…Continue Reading>>>

Our #6 Pick is the Radex RD1706 Pocket Radiation Detector by Quartaradex 1706

 

In sixth place is the Russian Radex 1706 Radiation Detector built by Quarta. Following the old adage, “you get what you pay for”, Quarta-Rad, has designed an inexpensive radioactivity dosimeter and found its place at the lower end due to simplicity and price. With a cost well under $300 this is indeed a very affordable Geiger counter for those on a limited budget…Continue Reading>>>