How to Beat a Radon Test
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
Brian S. Thompson