General Question

Nullo's avatar

What household appliances are most likely to set off a Geiger counter?

Asked by Nullo (21833 points ) April 22nd, 2011

Much to my surprise, I encountered a refugee Geiger counter (from circa 1965) when I returned home from work. Naturally, I fired it up and started wandering around with it.
To my mixed disappointment and relief, I couldn’t get more than a couple of desultory clicks out of the device, seemingly at random.
Can you think of anything else that I might have overlooked?

The more pragmatic side of my geekiness wants to see if it’s functioning properly, hence the effort. I know that I could sweep the house a few times and see if some areas came up positive more than others, but I don’t feel like it right now.

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10 Answers

syz's avatar

Apparently microwaves, electric blankets, humidifiers, vacuum cleaners, and hair dryers. But my source is a bit suspect.

Electric blankets are showing up on a lot of lists.

Nullo's avatar

I tried the microwave, no dice. Or maybe faulty Geiger counter?

WasCy's avatar

Granite countertops
The mantle on camp lanterns
Concrete itself, sometimes (even though it’s also a shielding material)
Coal piles (if you have any of those nearby)

The microwave is not producing “ionizing” radiation.

Rarebear's avatar

@WasCy You don’t need to put ionizing in quotes. You’re quite correct in that microwaves are not radioactive.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Rarebear's avatar

There is one common household appliance where you might pick something up—your smoke detector. It’s incredibly small, but it’s there. http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/sources/smoke_alarm.html

Try it out, I’m curious if it detects it.

XOIIO's avatar

Man, you are so lucky.

Lightlyseared's avatar

The glowing numerals on some watches.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Most older smoke detectors contain Americium-241 . Open up the detector and look for the metal shield about 40mm in diameter. You will find what you seek under that cover.

Check the bottom of the detector to make sure you have the right type. Use a magnifying glass as the label is written in 4 point type.

Buttonstc's avatar

This may be slightly impractical, but if you REALLY wanted to check it’s accuracy you could go to the airport and hop a plane to Japan.

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