This is a great question and one that I believe is important to revisit periodically - especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, unprecedented inflation rates, labor shortages and supply chain issues on materials and building supplies. With all of those things considered, prices among most legitimate contractors in the radon industry have adjusted accordingly. The simple fact is, nearly everything that effects business has gone up substantially over the course of the last two years - insurance and fuel prices have also played a major roll in industry price increases to name a few others. Despite that, I think there is one thing that has remained a constant in the industry pricing model and that is how one should view the cost of mitigation—and that is 3-fold: the cost of initial installation, the residual energy cost of operating the system year over year, and the cost of maintenance and monitoring. The latter two, sadly, are many times overlocked by most consumers. Instant gratification is what is most typically considered during this important decision, but as my grandfather used to say “being cheap can be expensive.”
The average radon system installation cost can vary greatly from home to home and region to region, however, in the present time, I feel comfortable giving most customers a range of somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 for the initial installation of a standard radon mitigation system. To be clear, this cost range includes the system installation itself (piping, fan and labor), proper electrical installation, and any permits or ancillary fees associated with doing business. In the past, we used to give a cost range of around $800-$1,500 but as previously mentioned, many cost factors since the Covid-19 pandemic and global supply chain issues have greatly contributed to this increased cost range.
What are some other factors that effect the average cost of installing a radon mitigation system?
The construction of the home plays a major role in what the cost of installing a radon mitigation system will be. Homes with multiple foundations or homes with older foundations made of rock or stone can cost significantly more to mitigate whereas new construction homes with clean aggregate and interior drainage tile can cost significantly less. In Wisconsin, we see many older farm homes with fieldstone walls, dirt or gravel crawlspaces and even dirt basement floors all together. Since radon comes from rock and soil, these houses can be more challenging and laborious to mitigate! All of these factors can increase the labor and material rates on radon installation jobs causing the cost of radon mitigation to go above the aforementioned range in many of these instances. It is important that while the term “radon mitigation” is used interchangeably between both the service of mitigation and the system itself, if done properly, radon mitigation is not a one size fits all solution for every home - it is rather the concept of mitigating a radon problem and applying that may look very different from home to home.
How does mitigating radon in a residential structure actually work?
To understand the costs associated with radon mitigation, I think it is first important to understand the basics about radon mitigation itself, or the most common and effective form of mitigation used today which is known as sub-slab depressurization or active soil depressurization.
Radon is a soil gas - meaning it is derived from the breakdown of uranium product that is present in the soil beneath and also around the foundation of the home. This gas gets drawn into the home through a pressure differential between the home and the soil. Just like water, radon finds the path of least resistance and if there is even the slightest negative pressure in ones home, radon is going to be drawn into the structure as opposed to naturally emitting outside into the fresh, outdoor air. These pressure differentials are very normal in residential homes because many everyday occurrences can create a pressure difference in the home. Things like heating the home, running bathroom and/or kitchen exhaust fans, barometric pressure changes pushing and pulling against the home, and even the wind can effect this pressure differential between the home and the ground it sits on. Why is this a problem? For energy efficiency purposes, homes are sealed tighter than ever before and once the gas enters into the home, it can grow to levels within the confined space of the structure that are greater than the current EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L. Therefore, in order to stop the radon from entering the home, radon contractors access the soil beneath the home (through a multitude of different ways) and begin to create a negative pressure under the home that is greater than the pressures currently affecting the home and ultimately drawing the radon toward the new path of least resistance (piping and fan) and venting it outside before it ever has a chance to enter the home in the first place.
It is very important to understand these basic concepts and fundamentals because it will certainly help in understanding the costs associated with radon mitigation. For example, homes with tight soils under the home may cost more to mitigate if one cannot extend the pressure field under the entirety of the slab/foundation because of how dense the soil content is. Different fans (high pressure fans vs. high flow fans) and more collection points may need to be utilized to aid in the mitigation process. Similarly, homes with unsealed foundations may require more labor and materials and may also affect the residual cost of radon mitigation if not sealed properly. Understanding how radon mitigation systems work will not only help you to understand the cost of installing a radon mitigation system but it will also help you understand which questions to ask competing contractors and help to identify red flags when contractors are not mentioning or addressing issues of importance during the mitigation process. For a more comprehensive guide to radon mitigation, please check out some of our radon mitigation resources both here and here!
What is the energy cost of operating a radon mitigation fan?
This is a super important question and as previously mentioned, one that unfortunately gets overlooked by homeowners much of the time. Mitigation companies with experience will typically perform diagnostic measures and ask questions about the home and its construction to properly size and recommend the appropriate radon fan for the specific property. This is really important because certain mitigations fans use more energy than others. An essential starting point is determining the proper radon fan that will mitigate the specific property effectively throughout all seasons but also not “over sizing the fan,” ultimately costing more than is necessary on a month over month basis to mitigate the property. On average, most residential radon mitigation fans cost about $50 - $200 annually to operate. However, another residual cost of radon mitigation, which is many times overlooked, is the “energy penalty” due to unintentional conditioned air-loss during operation. That is, if the slab or foundation is not properly sealed, the mitigation system can steal conditioned (heated or cooled), indoor air from the structure causing your furnace and A/C to work harder and ultimately costing more money to operate. Moreover, overworking the HVAC can shorten the lifespan on these mechanical units and cause untimely repair and replacement costs. While it is very easy to see how these types of costs can be easily overlooked, I hope one can see how extremely important and expensive overlooking these costs can be. Identifying a contractor that is not only going to properly size your mitigation fan/system but also one that will “due diligence” in sealing your foundation may cost a bit more on the front end but it will end up saving you A LOT of money and headache on the backend. Check out this formula for estimating how much your radon fan costs each year below!
E = P*(T/1000): E stands for energy measure in kWh, P stands for power measured in Watts, and T stands for time, meaning the time over which the power or energy was consumed. Once you find E (kWh) multiply that by the average cost of kWh in your area (which is currently 10.97 cents in WI ($0.1097) and you got yourself a pretty close estimate on the annual usage cost!
What is the cost of replacing your radon fan once it is no longer working?
The last cost factor rarely thought about when considering radon mitigation is the cost of maintenance, upkeep and monitoring. In the case of radon mitigation systems, maintenance is fairly minimal but there are 2-important cost factors to consider. That is, the cost of replacing the fan when it ultimately stops working and the cost to monitor (retest your home) periodically to ensure your system is still working effectively.
Most radon fans come with a standard 5-year warranty so theoretically, replacing your radon fan shouldn’t be something you have to worry about for at least 5-years. However, I think it is important to note that choosing a good contractor for initial installation is VERY important for ensuring a smooth and less costly maintenance situation down the road. A couple of things to consider in choosing a radon mitigation contractor that may help save you money on maintenance and monitoring:
1.) Choosing a contractor that will install a properly sized radon fan will help the fan last longer.
2.) Choosing an experienced radon contractor that will install the fan properly (not pushing the pipe too far into the couplings around the fan causing excess moisture in and around the fan, utilizing condensation bypasses when necessary, utilizing proper exhaust material so as to eliminate external pipe freezing that can minimize fan life, etc.).
3.) A contractor that will take the time to install the piping and fan internally if possible (inside of a garage or attic space) can drastically help extend the life of the radon fan.
4.) Hiring a contractor that will be in business to service your fan down the road so you don’t have to spend time (time is money) trying to find a new servicing contractor.
5.) Finding a contractor that offers at home continuous monitors for sale or affordable radon testing options for continued monitoring every 2-years or whenever major renovations take place (as recommended by the NRPP and EPA).
On average, we have found the cost of replacing a radon mitigation fan will typically fall somewhere between $275 and $550 (give or take) depending on the fan model, the contractors travel time and what needs to be done to access or remove the fan. Moreover, retesting your radon mitigation system for periodic monitoring can be as inexpensive is $25 or so for a charcoal, at home test kit up to $100-$250 for continuous monitor testing or purchasing an “at home” continuous monitor for homeowner use.
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Brian S. Thompson