In the radon testing and mitigation business we run into some homeowners who are less than happy when faced with the possibility of having to install a radon mitigation system. While it is understandable that most people selling their homes don’t want to pay for home repairs, radon gas isn’t something to mess around with. Tampering with a radon testing unit during a home sale is fraud, and can lead to lawsuits even years after you sell the home. In this post we want to inform you how to get ahead of a radon issue before it shows up during a home sale, and how to “beat a radon test” the right way!
Over the last decade, radon testing has become commonplace in real estate transactions. This is likely due to the increased knowledge of the dangers of radon gas in the home.
Radon gas is a Class A Carcinogen which means it is known to cause cancer in humans. In fact, over 21,000 American's die every year from lung cancer caused by the exposure to toxic radon gas levels (according to the EPA and US Surgeon General's office).
“What is radon?”
Radon is a soil gas that derives from the decay of uranium in the soil. Once it has been formed, radon gas rises from the soil and looks to dissipate into the air. When a home is blocking its path, radon gas can become trapped and begin to seep in through cracks in the foundation, floor gaps, the sump crock, or even the pores of the concrete slab or walls. Once inside of a home, the gas has nowhere to dissipate, so it will begin to build up to unsafe breathing levels. Unfortunately, radon gas is impossible to detect by the human senses as it is a noble gas, so you may not know of its existence in your home until it’s too late. Radon testing is the only way to know if your home has a radon issue.
Charcoal Radon Test Kits vs. Continuous Digital Radon Monitors
Charcoal Test Kits
The most common type of radon test is an at home charcoal radon test kit. Charcoal kits work by absorbing radon particles into a charcoal packet over a set period of time (2-5 days). Once the packet has been exposed for the set period of time, it is sealed up and shipped to a lab to be analyzed. While these kits are inexpensive and very handy for homeowners curious about their radon levels, they should not be used for real estate transactions because they can be easily tampered with. There is nothing on a charcoal radon test kit that can prevent someone from relocating it to the exterior of the home or an upper level of the home to skew the results. Additionally, charcoal kits cannot detect if the windows have been left open, or if there have been significant pressure changes within the home during the test.
Continuous Digital Radon Monitors
The preferred radon testing choice of most realtors and home buyers is the continuous digital radon monitor. Professional digital radon test devices are the fastest and most accurate way to test for radon. At Lifetime Radon, we utilize the AirThings Corentium Pro testing monitor which is calibrated yearly to maintain pinpoint accuracy. The Corentium Pro, and most other professional radon measurement devices, have sensors inside that can detect tampering and pressure changes throughout the duration of the test. This means that if the device is moved in any way, or the windows are opened during the test process, the report will show it and the test will have to be performed again. Always ask your radon testing provider when their device was calibrated and what type of report you will receive once the results come in.
How to Beat a Radon Test the Right Way
Fortunately, harmful levels of radon gas within a home can be fixed. If you are planning to sell your home in the near future and are concerned about failing a radon test, you should perform an at home radon test kit to get an idea of what levels may show up during an inspection. If those levels show a reading above 4.0pCi/L you should consider taking action before you list the home. The installation of a radon mitigation system is the only proven way to reduce radon levels within a structure, indefinitely. Radon mitigation systems work by drawing air out from underneath the home to create a negative pressure which deters rising gases from collecting under the slab and directs them to a safer area away from the home to dissipate into the air. Radon mitigation systems are guaranteed to reduce your radon levels below 4.0pCi/L, and many times even below 1.0pCi/L. Some other websites may claim that opening windows is a good solution to reduce radon levels before and during a radon test. Besides the fact that one would be committing fraud by opening windows during a real estate transaction radon test, opening windows may also skew the results even higher in some cases. Additionally, keeping windows open all year round to vent radon out is not a sustainable solution. In one of our earlier blog posts "Will Opening My Windows Lower My Radon Levels?" we go over 3 main reasons why this is a poor solution to radon issues in a home.
What You Can Do as a Home Buyer
If you are worried that an unscrupulous seller or realtor may try to tamper with the radon test being performed on the home you are purchasing don't worry! There are options to prevent radon testing fraud. You should always request that a digital test be performed by a certified radon testing company when you are in a home sale. Additionally, you should ask when the device being used for testing has been calibrated last to ensure the best possible accuracy. Most professional devices will also provide a full report of movement, pressure changes, and radon levels hour by hour. Because of this, you should request the entire report upon completion. If the radon levels are low on the initial test, you should perform another test of your own once you have moved in to make sure that nothing has changed. Radon levels do fluctuate throughout the year, so the second test may be a bit different than the first, but it should not be an egregious difference.
Cheating on a radon test by opening windows, covering the test with a bag, or moving the device outside is never a good idea. Not only can you get caught quite easily (especially if a digital test is being performed), but you may also be endangering the lives of the next homeowners who will be completely unaware of the harmful radon levels for years to come. If the next homeowners develop lung cancer, and subsequently perform additional radon testing that shows that their radon levels are actually significantly elevated compared to the test results you provided them during the home sale, you could potentially face legal issues. Testing before you list your home, and installing a radon mitigation system if necessary, will not only increase the value of your home, but also prevent the headache of having to rush into an install before the closing.
Lifetime Radon Solutions
As you may have heard from us before, testing your home for radon is an extremely important action to take for your lung health. Radon being the second leading cause of lung cancer (second only to smoking) is something we should all be mindful of no matter where we reside. Once you have taken the crucial first step in testing your home for radon some of you may get an undesirable result in the form of an elevated radon test result. Having your home test high for radon can be a very stressful thing, so what is the next step? In this article we are going to go over the easiest and least stressful plan of attack to rid your home of radon gas.
Step 1: Learn More About Your Test Reading
Once you have received your test results, give your local radon mitigation expert a call and have them explain what those results mean. If you live in the U.S, the EPA recommends taking action if your home tests at 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or above. The World Health Organization however has taken a more cautious approach to their recommendation and sets their action level at 2.7 pCi/L.
What is a picocurie? In layman's terms, a picocurie is the way we measure the rate of radioactive decay of radon. To get a little more technical, the Kansas State national radon program describes a picocurie as “one trillionth of a curie, 0.037 disintegrations per second, or 2.22 disintegrations per minute. Therefore, at 4pCi/L (picocuries per liter - the EPA's recommended action level), there will be approximately 12,672 radioactive disintegrations in one liter of air during a 24-hour period.” (Kansas State University, "Radon Basics"). As a general rule of thumb, consulting a radon professional is recommended for any radon test result you receive-whether it is elevated or lower than the recommended action level.
Step 2: Find the Right Radon Mitigation Company to Work With
If you live in an area that is known to have a high probability of elevated radon levels (Check out this radon map to see what radon zone you live in) there will be many different radon mitigation companies to choose from.
How can you differentiate each company and choose the best one?
In our experience, a good radon company has the following:
Step 3: Have a Radon Mitigation System Installed
Once you have picked the right company to install a radon mitigation system in your home, it’s time to start the install. As mentioned before, there are multiple options for mitigation depending on the home. The three main factors a good radon company will consider with regard to placement of the system are aesthetics, effectiveness, and EPA/AARST/NRPP standards. When the radon technician enters your home for the first time, ask them to show you multiple options for install and their thought processes behind each location. You may then choose which spot you are most comfortable having the system placed. In many homes, the only option is the run the radon system from the basement to the exterior of the home to vent above the roofline. However if the home has an attached garage and unfinished basement sharing a common wall with said garage, the system can be run up through the garage to vent through the roof for a more aesthetically pleasing option. Click HERE to read more about garage vs. exterior venting options.
Step 4: Keep Up With Retesting and Minor Maintenance.
After you’ve had a radon mitigation system installed in your home and retested with acceptable results, you can finally relax for a while. Radon systems do not require too much maintenance from the homeowner, the main things we recommend that you do are:
So as you can see, maintaining your radon mitigation system is very simple and painless. If you have any issues with your system such as a loud fan, or a loss of vacuum pressure, give your installer a call!
Step 5: Inform your Friends and Family
Radon gas is not something to take lightly and unfortunately much of the public is unaware of its dangers. If you have a good experience with the company that installed your system, tell your friends and family! A referral to a radon company can save lives! Thank you for taking the time to read up about radon mitigation! You will not regret this crucial home improvement project once it’s installed. Stay safe!
Lifetime Radon Solutions
If you are not familiar with the harmful effects of radon gas, you are not alone. In our experience, around half of the people that have called into our company, or have met us at various trade shows, have not heard of radon or its harmful effects until they decided to sell their home. Radon testing and mitigation are very commonly associated with real estate transactions because of how few homes are tested for radon prior to a home inspection. Radon testing being included as part of a home inspection is a fairly recent development, so most homes that have been lived in for a long period of time probably have never been tested for radon. This is, unless the owner of the home took it upon themselves to get a radon test kit or have a company come out and test their home for radon.
With little awareness and education out there about radon (currently the federal radon program is defunded), many people get rightly confused or angry about the possibility of having to install a radon mitigation system on the home they are selling. In this article, we want to not only raise awareness about the harmful effects of radon gas, but also encourage everyone to have their home tested for radon even if one doesn't plan on selling or buying a new home.
With that being said, here are a few reasons you should start caring about radon:
1. RADON GAS IS KNOWN TO CAUSE LUNG CANCER
Radon gas is a Class A carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in humans (lung cancer specifically). Radon decays at a fast rate and gives off small radioactive particles that can attach themselves to things like moisture or dust in the air. When inhaled, over a long period of time, this can cause damage to the cells that are in the lining of the lungs. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and can affect anyone. No matter your age, race, or prior medical conditions you can be susceptible to the harmful effects of radon. Out of the five main causes of lung cancer which include smoking, radon gas, asbestos, pollution, and genetics; radon gas ranks second only to smoking in the number of lung cancer cases caused. If you are a smoker, your odds of getting lung cancer are increased substantially if your home has an elevated radon level. At Lifetime Radon Solutions, we feel that the possible health effects radon can cause is more than enough of a reason to have your home tested. Radon testing is easy and affordable to do.
2. PETS ARE AFFECTED BY RADON GAS TOO
Humans are not the only ones who can get lung cancer from elevated radon levels in their home. In fact, household pets can be more susceptible to the ill effects of elevated radon levels in a home because of their higher respiratory rate, and their propensity to be low to the ground (where radon levels are at their highest). Many cats and dogs love to hang out in the basement and even sleep down there. Due to radon’s tendency to build up in the lowest level of the home, this can cause significant harm to your pets if they are exposed for lengthy periods of time. Unfortunately, we have heard of many cases where a family’s beloved pet developed lung cancer likely due to radon exposure. Taking action by properly testing your home and installing a radon mitigation system if necessary can not only protect your own health, but the health of your furry friends as well.
3. HOMEOWNERS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES AFFECTED
It is a common misconception that radon gas can only build up in residential homes and smaller structures. Radon gas can become trapped in any structure, no matter how large. We have received elevated radon test results from apartments, condos, office buildings, storefronts, factories, and schools. Fortunately, even large buildings can be mitigated to a safe level. The unfortunate part is, many times these types of buildings are not tested or mitigated. If you live, work, or go to school in one of these larger structures, it is important to ask the owner of the building if they have conducted a radon test in the past. If they have not, you should request that one be done. You can personally test your apartment, or condo with a charcoal testing kit or have a company like Lifetime Radon Solutions bring in a digital testing monitor. However, if mitigation is necessary, the owner of the building must approve of the system being installed on their property.
4. HAVING BEDROOMS OR EXERCISE ROOMS IN YOUR BASEMENT MAY PUT YOU AT A HIGHER RISK
We believe it is necessary to test your home no matter how it is constructed. However, it is especially important to take action if you have a bedroom or exercise area in the lowest level of your residence. If you sleep downstairs, you could possibly be consistently breathing in elevated radon levels for 6-10 hours every single night. As for having an exercise room in the basement, staying healthy by working out could end up being counterproductive if you are doing it in an area that has dangerous levels of radon gas. Your increased respiratory rate from exercising paired with being low to the ground during certain exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, yoga, etc. can put you at a higher risk than normal. If you have either a bedroom or an exercise room in your basement, we would highly suggest installing a radon mitigation system no matter what.
5. RADON LEVELS CAN BE ELEVATED ON UPPER FLOORS AS WELL; NOT JUST IN THE BASEMENT.
“Why should I test my basement if it's rarely used?”
We hear this statement a lot from the general public regarding testing their home for radon. While there is generally a smaller risk of radon exposure if you don’t use your basement, this isn’t always the case. Some homes can have such a high concentration of radon gas in the lowest level of the home that the radon levels on the next floor can creep up into the danger zone as well. This is why we urge every single homeowner to perform a radon test no matter how the home is built or used. We have seen some extremely high radon test readings in the past from homes with unfinished basements, and many of them have tested high on the main floor as well after further examination.
Our motto is “Why Risk It?” because there is no reason to risk radon exposure when radon testing is extremely affordable and fast.
In conclusion, we at Lifetime Radon feel that radon awareness is very important. Whatever your reason is, whether it be your health, your family's health, your pet’s health, or to increase the value of your home, TEST YOUR HOME FOR RADON! You will not regret it. Stay safe everyone!
Lifetime Radon Solutions
We have had a lot of concerned homeowners call us and ask questions about the health effects that they may experience after living in a home with elevated levels of radon gas. The term “radon poisoning” seems to come up a lot in their questions.
For instance, “What is radon poisoning?” or “What symptoms are involved in radon poisoning?”
To be clear, it’s not really poisoning that is occurring in your body when you are exposed to elevated radon levels. As radon-222 decays (it has a half life of approximately 3.8 days) radon produces what is known as radon daughter particles, which can attach to, or “plate on to,” things like water vapor, dust, pet dander or smoke in the air. When inhaled, over an extended period of time, these radioactive particles can damage the cells in your lungs and ultimately cause lung cancer. Similar to asbestos, radon typically takes years of exposure to cause cancer. Unfortunately, this causes a lot of people to put off having radon removed from their homes.
Simply because radon gas is not usually an imminent concern or danger, does not mean it shouldn’t be addressed quickly. Most of us spend the majority of our time at home, so being exposed to dangerous radon levels for years is pretty easy to accomplish, especially if no action is taken. The majority of homeowners have at least one carbon monoxide detector in their home, which is great, but what most people don’t know is that radon gas causes approximately 20,500 more deaths per year than carbon monoxide does! Similarly, everyone should also have a smoke alarm in their home, and while that is extremely important, deaths from house fires in the U.S. in 2018 were 3,655 while radon related lung cancer deaths were estimated at between 21,000 and 29,000 that same year. If everyone is willing to purchase a carbon monoxide detector or smoke alarm for their home, what is holding them back from purchasing a radon test kit?
What are the symptoms of radon exposure?
Radon is a noble gas, which means it cannot be detected by any of our human senses. So we won’t be able to feel the effects of elevated radon levels until it’s too late. The only way to detect radon in a home is to do proper radon testing (which you can read about HERE). The symptoms of radon exposure will only be felt if you develop lung cancer from it. Here are some of the symptoms of lung cancer caused by radon gas exposure:
Many of these symptoms only occur in the advanced stage of the cancer, so it is vital to reduce your risk of getting lung cancer as soon as you can. Therefore, as you can see, the symptoms of radon exposure are not as noticeable as say carbon monoxide exposure or chlorine gas exposure, however the end result can be just as deadly.
Steps you can take to reduce your risk of radon exposure:
In conclusion, radon gas is not something you should ignore simply because it doesn’t have an instant impact. Be proactive in testing your home regularly and taking the proper steps to mitigate if your home tests high. If you have questions about radon testing, radon mitigation, or the impact of radon on your lung health, give us a call today!
We have provided radon testing and mitigation services throughout the state of Wisconsin for over two decades. Even if you don’t live in Wisconsin, that’s ok! We’re happy to answer any and all of your questions regardless of where you reside!
Lifetime Radon Solutions Inc.
“What is radon?”
“Why is this just coming up now?”
“I never had an issue during my time living in the home!”
“Should I be concerned about my health now?”
“How fast can this get done? I have to close on the home soon!”
“How much does it cost to mitigate radon?”
We hear these questions and statements almost daily from homeowners in the process of selling their homes. A lot of you reading this probably have the same type of questions, and for good reason! Many times, the high radon test comes as a surprise to the current owners and causes a lot of stress for all parties involved, especially if there's a tight closing date in play. More and more buyers are demanding that radon testing be performed before purchasing a house. If the radon test fails, the buyer will make the sale contingent on the installation of a radon mitigation system similar to other home repairs like roof and plumbing work. So, to take a little bit of stress off of you as a home seller, here are five things you should know about radon!
1. Radon can’t be seen, smelled, or felt, but it is a harmful carcinogen.
Simply because radon cannot be detected by the human senses, that doesn’t mean it’s not a threat. Radon gas comes from the decay of uranium in the soil and when it rises up from the soil under your home, it can get trapped and sucked into your basement due to the pressure differential between the soil and the home. Radon gas becomes harmful as it decays because it gives off radioactive particles that damage the lining of the lungs, and over time this can cause lung cancer in both humans and animals. We get a lot of calls from upset home sellers who are obligated to fix the radon problem in their home before being able to close. Usually it’s one of two reasons why they are concerned. Either they think radon is a myth or a hoax because they haven’t been affected by it when they were living in the home, or they are concerned for their health going forward because they were unaware that they had been living in elevated radon levels for years. Radon typically takes years to take effect on the body if at all. Everyone’s body is different, so simply because you were not affected, that does not mean that the new homeowners will not be.
2. Radon has always been an issue
Radon gas has always been a threat even if you had never heard about it until now. Similar to how asbestos became something to watch out for, radon gas wasn't fully understood or taken seriously until semi-recently. Even as more information comes out about its dangers, public awareness about radon is still very low. More and more states are starting to regulate radon mitigation and radon testing and urging homeowners to take action. Radon mitigation isn’t a new fad, or trend that will fade out after a few years. Mitigation is a proven method to keep radon gas out of residential homes and commercial properties indefinitely, protecting the occupants inside.
3.You should be aware of radons effects, but don’t panic
We are writing this article mostly to inform you to the reasons why the buyers of your home feel it is important to install a radon mitigation system, not to scare you. If you feel like you have been exposed to high amounts of radon over a long period of time and are worried about your lung health, talk to your doctor. They will be able to give you more information and check if you have had any lasting effects. As mentioned before, radon can take a long time to take effect and everyone is different. You could be completely fine, but the next homeowner could be the ones affected. Knowing more about radon gas and how to prevent it in your next home will only help you when making the next purchase and with your future lung health. The EPA, the CDC and the American Lung Association all have great information on their websites regarding the effects of radon gas if you wish to explore more.
4. Radon mitigation can be a painless process, and the pricing depends on your home
Radon mitigation is a half day job for an experienced and certified mitigator, and typically we schedule installations about a week out, but can usually make accommodations for tight closings if needed. Estimates for radon mitigation systems can be given over the phone, through email or in person with a proposal sent to you via email in minutes. The price for radon mitigation largely depends on how your home is built. Typical prices for residential radon mitigation systems are between $800-$1500. For real estate transactions we can install the system for you and do the retesting digitally to get you the results in as little as 3 days after the installation to ensure that you have all the paperwork before you close. We have been in business for over 21 years, and in that time we have perfected the radon mitigation process to make it as painless as possible for our customers. We have a full time office staff and multiple installers, so you can be sure that we will answer the phone for radon related questions and estimates, and we won’t be booking out further than a week or two to do the installation.
5. Your next home should be tested as well
If you're moving to another residential home you should request a radon test at that property too. Now that you know the effects of radon gas, you might as well reap the health benefits of a radon system at home you will be living in for years to come. You will most likely have to install a radon mitigation system at the home you are selling, so why not find out what the levels are at your new home and work out a deal with that seller to mitigate that home as well? Don’t risk your health any longer! Radon testing and mitigation saves lives. If you live in Wisconsin or Minnesota, call us anytime for radon testing and mitigation questions as well as a free quote! If you live outside of our service area, feel free to call anyway, we can guide you through the process and let you know what to look out for when choosing the right contractor for the job.
Lifetime Radon Solutions
In the radon testing and radon mitigation industry, we deal a lot with customers who are in the midst of a real estate transaction. This is so because the home inspection is many times the first time the seller of the home has ever conducted a proper radon test. As deadly as elevated radon levels can be in residential homes, public awareness about its dangers is still very low. Both buyers and sellers tend to get overwhelmed about elevated radon test results during the inspection of the home, but we can help you make the process go as smoothly as possible. To help you decide what actions you need to take to keep you safe in your new home, here are the 5 things you need to know about radon before buying.
1.RADON IS A SERIOUS HEALTH HAZARD:
Radon gas is a Class A carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer in humans. Radon is actually the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, only second to smoking. In non smokers, radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer. Humans are not the only ones affected by radon either, pets can develop lung cancer from radon gas as well, and are actually more susceptible to the effects because of their increased breathing rates. In either case, the effects of radon gas are not something to scoff at or ignore. Every homeowner should be aware of the effects of radon and how to monitor and control it in their home. Where does radon come from you might ask? Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil underneath your home. As the gas rises to dissipate in the air, the presence of your home blocks it from venting so it becomes trapped. Due to the pressure differential between your home and the soil underneath, radon can get drawn in through cracks in the floor, the sump crock, or even simply the pores of the concrete. Once inside, radon tends to build up in the lower levels of the home due to its density, and because of how long it takes to decay, radon can build up to unsafe levels throughout the living space.
2. RADON IS A FIXABLE ISSUE IN ANY HOME
If the home you're buying does test high for radon gas, as scary as that may be, it should not deter you from buying the home. Elevated radon gas levels can be fixed in any home by installing a proper radon mitigation system. At levels of 4.0pCi/L or above, a radon mitigation system is recommended in the home, but don’t fret if the current levels are substantially higher than that. We have found that even homes with levels as high as 80-100pCi/L can be brought below 4.0pCi/L with a custom designed radon mitigation system. Our most typical retest results for residential homes fall below 2.0 and many coming even below 1.0. There may be many different factors that you consider when deciding whether or not to buy a certain home, but due to proven removal techniques, radon gas shouldn’t be one of them.
3. THERE ARE MULTIPLE OPTIONS FOR MITIGATION:
We find that a lot of home buyers worry about the aesthetics of a radon mitigation system because they have seen other radon systems online or in their neighborhood that they didn’t like. While we agree that white PVC piping and a fan might not be the most ideal object to be placed on the exterior of your home, that doesn't mean it can’t be hidden. Homes with an attached garage can usually be fitted with a garage style radon mitigation system. Garage style radon mitigation systems have the piping and fan run from the basement, into the garage and then through the roof. A garage radon mitigation system, if possible, is the most aesthetically pleasing option for radon mitigation. Obviously, every home cannot be fitted with this style of system, but even if an exterior option is the only way to go, there are usually multiple options as to where the system can go on the exterior. We always work with our clients to find the spot on their home they are most comfortable with, so if the home you are buying needs a radon mitigation system and has to be installed before you move in, it is a good idea to be there on the day of install if possible.
4. WATCH OUT FOR RADON TESTING FRAUD
Unfortunately in the radon industry, we see a lot of radon testing fraud. Some homeowners want to avoid the possibility of ever having to install a radon system themselves even if it means lying to the buyers, endangering their health. You can even see the prevalence of this by looking at how many people search Google for questions such as “how to pass a radon test” or “how to fool a radon detector”. Radon testers are not completely tamper proof and cannot be watched for the full testing period by a professional, so during the testing process, we’ve seen sellers open windows, or even move the test to the top level to make sure it comes back low no matter what. There isn’t a lot that can be done about this, however it is an important thing to be aware of. If you have a test done by an inspector and then the seller conducts their own test with a much different outcome, it may be time to question the results. Additionally, the EPA recommends testing every two years, so if the results are low when you buy, you should still have another test conducted soon after moving in.
5. GOING CHEAP CAN END UP BEING EXPENSIVE:
Not being a part of the installation of a radon mitigation system for the home you are buying can end up being costly for you. If left up to the sellers of the home, they may choose the cheapest option just so they can get it done and get the closing over with as soon as possible with the smallest cost to them. Quality radon mitigation systems installed by certified and experienced contractors should cost anywhere between $800 and $1500. If you see a quote below that, you may be getting a low quality system in the end. Radon mitigation systems that are installed improperly or installed without proper permits being pulled for electrical (if needed), can cost you a lot down the road. The costs that can ensue after a poor installation include but are not limited to; fines from the city, service call costs to fix unsatisfactory work, time wasted by trying to contact the company for service, or even the cost of having the system removed and an entirely new system installed to get it to code or working as it should. Try to be a part of the mitigation process with the sellers of your home, and check reviews as well as company history before making a decision. We have fixed far too many improperly installed systems over our 21 years in business. If you are going to have mitigation done at your new home, make sure it’s done right the first time.
Lifetime Radon Solutions
The process of radon mitigation within residential structures is generally a simple concept. For the vast majority of homes in Wisconsin and the rest of the midwest, some form of sub-slab depressurization is the most effective way to reduce radon levels within the home. That is, either depressurizing the drain-tile system or depressurizing the soil/material beneath the slab when no drain-tile is present. The reason this concept works so well is that the negative pressure differential between the home and the soil beneath the home is the main cause of the “vacuum” that draws the radon into the structure in the first place. Many times this pressure differential is caused by natural occurrences (like barometric pressure changes, wind, etc.) and other times human actions (like heating the home, running exhaust fans, etc.). In more simplistic terms, since radon is a gas derived from uranium particles in the soil, when the home “breathes” it releases air out and ultimately has to replace that air with new air from outside the structure.
During this process, the home can draw in new air from beneath the slab (many times with high radon concentrations), into the structure where it is encapsulated and can grow to more dangerous concentrations over time—much greater than the highly diluted outdoor air. By “overriding” the natural pressure changes and human originated pressure changes (through the use of a proper radon fan), the radon system will ultimately draw the radon into the exhaust piping rather than into the structure. This concept of sub-slab depressurization is also effective because it stops the radon before it enters the home in the first place. Again, in layman’s terms, by using a PVC venting system powered by a specifically chosen radon fan (ultimately creating a vacuum under the slab), we can override the natural pressure differential that is present and ultimately draw the radon into our piping, rather than into the structure, and property reroute it to vent above the roofline (so there is little to no chance of reentry into the home). Some homes have different foundation styles or may contain crawlspaces, and in that case, a similar depressurization process is used—only the process involves sealing the crawlspace with vapor barrier and drawing the air from beneath the vapor skin rather than beneath a concrete slab. Although the process or concept is rather simplistic, the implementation and installation can become complicated. The following information is how I explain to customers the biggest misconception surrounding radon system installation nearly every time I do a radon installation quote...
Most every time I enter a home to do a radon mitigation system installation quote, I ask the customer to start things out by showing me where the sump pump is, or ask if there is a sump pump/sump crock at all. I do this for a few different reasons but mainly because I can generally identify if there is drain-tile present, how the drain-tile is run, what kind of drain-tile is present, and whether or not there is a submersible sump pump or a pedestal-style sump pump present. Nearly every time we get to this part of the process, the conversation comes up about system placement and the biggest misconception about radon mitigation in residential properties is brought to the surface. That is, most every homeowner I speak to thinks that the radon system MUST come out of the sump crock. This belief is false. We do not have to run the radon system out of the sump crock. That is simply one way to install the radon system and in most situations it is not the preferred method of installation for these 3 reasons:
1. Generally the sump crock is in the front corner of the home and because of that, system placement and aesthetics for exterior placement is not preferred.
2. Many times the sump crock is a busy area—meaning you have multiple pumps and pipes exiting in this area and there may be hoses from dehumidifiers or other appliances running into the crock in this area, etc. Therefore, adding another pipe into the closed or sealed radon cover may overcomplicate things if the customer needs to change their sump pump in a hurry.
3. Sometimes, depending on sump placement, there may be code issues that preclude the contractor from placing the system in this area (this could be its own post entirely, so for the sake of keeping on topic we will keep this point general).
There are really only 3 reasons that I do recommend to install the radon system out of the sump crock. Those reasons are as follows:
1. We prefer to run directly out of the sump crock if the customer has a very active sump pump/drain-tile system. If the sump is continuously running, that generally means that the drain-tile is full of water. Since the drain-tile is used to pull air through the system, the existence of water will preclude the system from operating effectively (if we tie into the tile directly, and it is full of water, it is difficult/impossible to pull air/gas through water). By utilizing the sump as the collection point, the system will be more effective because the water pressure will force any soil gasses and air into the sump basket and the fan will of course remove those soil gasses and vent them properly above the roofline/gutter-line.
2. If the customer or current homeowner has had drain-tile work done and the basement company that completed the work voids the warranty if we connect into the drain-tile directly, then we would of course prefer to run out of the sump crock to ensure the customers warranty remains intact.
3. If the homeowner or customer is not sure where the drain-tile runs (depending on the age of the home, the builder, or a multitude of other reasons, the drain-tile may not go all the way around the structure or may not run next to the footing-sometimes referred to as a “spider system” because the system may have several “legs” and/or resemble a spider from an arial point of view). In this case, it may make sense to use the sump pit as the collection point. Further, it doesn’t make sense to drill holes into the customers slab to try and find the tile (this is of course both damaging and time consuming) and usually it is much easier to just simply depressurize the sump, test pressure field extension (the area beneath the slab where the fan is able to pull air through the sub- slab material and ultimately show a negative pressure differential on a micro- manometer) or retest the radon levels, and if the PFE is not proper or if the levels are not properly reduced, then the technician can add another drop point to increase the pressure field extension. Many times, this happens when the home was built before modern building codes were present or if the individual that built the home did things “their own way."
It is important to understand that piping directly out of the sump crock is a necessary and effective means to achieve proper radon mitigation but certainly not the only means. However, the above information explains why it may make sense to pursue this method and why it may make sense to seek out other routes for your radon abatement system. Most customers prefer their systems to be run to areas outside of the home that are hidden or out of plain site. Moreover, homeowners with ranch style homes or homeowners with attached garages (with no living space above) may prefer for the system to be run through a closet or up through the garage and eventually vent out of the roof of the home. In these cases, depending on sump crock placement, it usually makes sense for the system to run directly out of the drain-tile to achieve this placement rather than out of the sump itself. That is, running horizontal pipe for 10, 15, or 20 feet out of the sump and across the basement to get to the chosen area outside, in the garage or up through a closet, etc. may deem the system ineffective because of reduced/inhibited airflow or other detrimental flow metrics. Additionally, it would be more laborious, more expensive and most likely more intrusive/obtrusive to run 3 or 4 inch PVC across the basement. Therefore, utilizing the sub-slab piping that is already present and
ultimately hidden from the living space is much more practical and effective because it allows for a more direct venting route while still achieving the aesthetics desired by the homeowner.
In conclusion, venting a radon system out of the sump pit or directly out of the drain-tile are both effective means of radon mitigation. The only reason the sump pit is used in radon mitigation is because of the drain-tile piping that wraps all the way around the entire footprint of the structure. It allows us to create a great pressure field extension under the home. This is precisely how a 3-inch radon pipe on one side of the home can mitigate the entire structure. Because the unseen piping underneath the slab is both open to the soil and present all the way around the entire footprint of the structure, we are able to pull air from underneath the entire structure by tying into this system. Therefore, whether we tie into the sump pit itself or into the drain-tile system directly, we achieve the same or similar result—a depressurized drain-tile system that allows us to effectively pull radon gas from beneath the structure and vent it safety into the outdoor air. Which method is best? That is determined on a case-by-case basis and is generally based on the customers preference and on the many factors listed above!
Brian S Thompson
Lifetime Radon Solutions
We get asked a lot if simply opening windows in the home can lower the radon levels to a safe and livable level. The answer to this question is a bit complicated, because yes, in some cases the home’s levels can be lowered temporarily by opening windows, but not only is this not a sustainable solution, it has the possibility of causing other issues as well. Let’s go over a few reasons to why opening windows is not the right solution to keeping you and your family safe from radon gas in the home.
Opening windows is not a sustainable solution:
If your home has an elevated level of radon gas, this means that radon gas is coming up from under your home from the soil and getting trapped under the slab. Once trapped, it seeps into the home in a multitude of ways due to the pressure differential between the house and the soil. Opening the windows does help bring fresh air in and circulate the radon gas out, however, once you inevitably have to close your windows during the night, or in the winter time, the constantly rising radon gas levels will build right back up into your home within a few hours. Additionally, it is not advised to constantly leave windows open to simply take care of one issue such as radon gas, because essentially you will be losing far more money in heating and cooling costs than you would by simply installing a proper radon mitigation system.
You will still be exposed to radon gas before it can escape through the windows.
As mentioned before, if your home tests high for radon gas, that means there is a decent amount of radon gas rising from the soil under your home. Opening windows can help ventilate radon out, however in that scenario, you are already letting the harmful gas inside before letting it slowly vent out. Radon mitigation systems pull the radon gas out before it even has a chance to enter the living space, so you won’t be breathing in elevated levels at all before it gets safely piped out.
Sometimes leaving the windows open can increase the radon level in the home.
In some cases, albeit more rare, leaving windows open in the home can create a negative pressure differential between the soil and the home that can actually draw more radon gas into the living space. Weather conditions, and which windows are actually left open all play big factors to whether the radon gas is being drawn out, or sucked in. The only reliable method of keeping your radon levels low whether the windows are open or not is radon mitigation.
In conclusion, leaving windows open can only act as a temporary solution to elevated radon levels before you can get a more permanent solution installed such as a proper radon mitigation system. If you have questions regarding radon, radon mitigation, or radon testing, give us a call any time! We are here to help.
Lifetime Radon Solutions
1. Your health:
By far the biggest reason you should have a radon mitigation system installed in your home is to keep you, and your family safe. Radon is a class A carcinogen, which means there is evidence that it causes cancer in humans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that over 21,000 people in the US alone die from radon induced lung cancer annually. So, as the second leading cause of lung cancer only to smoking, radon poses a large threat to homeowners, and the scary thing is, it's invisible. Unlike smoking, where most everyone knows the risks and you can see and feel the smoke going into your lungs, radon cannot be smelled, seen, or tasted. The decay chain of radon is what poses the danger to human lungs, and the radioactivity that is emitted is what causes cancer. With the emergence of new technology, radon gas can now be easily detected with the use of test kits, and digital testing monitors. This means more and more homeowners are able to test their homes easily and for an affordable price. Don’t risk you and your families health by ignoring this cancer causing gas. Have your home tested, and mitigated if the results come back above 4.0pCi/L.
2. Increased value of the home:
Much of our business comes from homeowners in the midst of selling who ultimately need to install a radon mitigation system as a condition of the sale. What this means is, most new home buyers are demanding homes that have low radon levels before they move in. We’ve even seen instances where high radon levels almost ruined the sale because the buyer was afraid that the home was a health hazard. Fortunately, radon can be effectively removed from any property for less money than you may think. Once installed, radon mitigation systems run continuously keeping radon from entering the home, so when it comes time for inspection, you won’t have to worry about failing the radon test. Comparatively to other home repairs such as roofing, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical, radon mitigation is much less of an expense. Additionally, radon mitigation can be completed in less than a day with retest results back in less than a week.
3. Moisture reduction:
An unintended but certainly welcome byproduct of installing a radon mitigation system is moisture reduction. Most homeowners see a significant difference with the humidity levels in their basement after a radon mitigation system is put in place. A lot of homeowners tell us that they no longer have to run their dehumidifiers at all, while others say they run dehumidifiers significantly less than they normally did before. There have been studies done by the EPA on moisture reduction from radon mitigation systems that showed statistically significant reductions in moisture levels in the basement over time, so not only will you be drawing out dangerous radon gas from your home, you will also be keeping your basement dry, which is pretty cool!
4. Peace of mind:
Radon mitigation systems are designed to not only reduce the current radon levels in the home significantly, but also to keep them low indefinitely. Radon levels fluctuate throughout the year, and can change drastically as time goes on or as new cracks form in the basement when the home settles. If your radon levels were at 3.0 pCi/L when you bought the house, there’s a good chance that the levels could surge up above 4.0 pCi/L in just a few years. Some homeowners like to live on the edge and risk not taking action on their radon levels, but most people are concerned with their health and can achieve the piece of mind that they are safe from this cancer causing threat by installing a radon mitigation system. With a radon system, you can rest easy that there is a continuously running device in place to keep radon out, and keep it out for years to come. There’s no more worrying about pressure changes and different times of the year making your home unsafe, a radon mitigation system is designed to keep your radon levels low year round.
5. Elimination of mold and mildew smell from open crawl spaces
Many homes throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota have open crawl spaces in the basement or under additions, and this can be a major source of radon and mold. In addition to installing a radon mitigation system in these homes, we also seal down the crawlspace with an airtight vapor barrier. This not only helps with keeping radon from rushing in through that open space, but also helps with the musty smell that many times emanates from such crawlspaces. The vapor barrier also helps with moisture in the basement, and can protect from all other soil gases coming up into the home as well. Once sealed down, you will undoubtedly notice a drastic improvement in air quality of the basement, and aesthetically, it looks a lot cleaner.
For more information on radon mitigation, and it’s benefits, you can always reach us by phone or email. We offer free estimates to all homeowners living in Wisconsin and Minnesota!
For those who already have a radon mitigation system installed in their home, the question we get a lot is, “what do I need to do to maintain my current radon system?”or “can you make sure the system is still working as it should?” and “what do I do if my current system doesn’t adhere to current code or EPA standards?”
Listed below are the answers to a few of these frequently asked questions:
“What do I need to do to maintain my current radon system?”
Once a radon system is installed, homeowners really only need to do two simple things to ensure their system is running effectively.
“Can you make sure our radon system is still working as it should?”
Absolutely! Whether your system is installed by us or any other company, we are always available to come out to your home to assess your radon mitigation system and fix whatever may be wrong. Fan issues are what we run into the most, and many homeowners fear that once the fan stops working they have to install a whole new system. This is not true at all. For a much lower cost than installing a brand new system, the fan can be replaced by us. If your current fan is buzzing, clicking, yellowing, grinding, or not running at all, it may be time for a replacement. The line of fans that we use are known to be one of the top radon mitigation fan manufacturers in the industry. You can check out Festa Radon Technologies by clicking HERE and read about what makes them different in the marketplace. Our fans do not yellow from the sun and typically last longer than 7 years. If you have a fan that is specifically tailored to fit in a certain area, we can special order the same brand you have, or modify the piping to fit a new fan. We also offer a variety of upgraded fans if you are not comfortable with the current levels your system is producing.
“What if my existing system doesn’t comply with the current EPA standards?”
We run into a lot of systems that were either installed a long time ago, or done by someone not certified in radon mitigation. If this is the case, the system must be modified or replaced in order to pass inspection when selling the home. The most obvious signs that your radon system isn’t up to code are as follows:
If your current system has one or more of these issues, it will most likely be flagged when it comes time for a home inspection. However, many of these things can be fixed without having to install a new system. We can reroute and extend existing piping, move the fan to an acceptable place, seal the sump crock, replace the sump pump, and add a manometer if needed. If you feel your system isn’t up to code, or it doesn’t pass an inspection, give us a call and we can help!