Radon is a cancer-causing gas that forms when uranium, radium, or thorium breaks down in soil and rock. Due to its lack of color and odor, humans can’t detect it without specialized equipment. Initial contact with the gas can cause breathing difficulties, but prolonged exposure can lead to lung cancer.
The only way to find out if you have radon in your home is by testing. You can also use a radon mitigation system to prevent radon from entering your home. Radon can occur in any home, as it seeps through cracks in most building materials. A build-up of this gas inside a home can damage your health, so radon testing and mitigation are crucial.
What is radon mitigation?
Radon mitigation is a system that prevents the gas from entering the home or dispersing. These systems use ventilation to redirect radon and avoid a build-up in closed spaces.
The EPA recommends mitigating the radon issue if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more. You should reduce your radon level if it’s between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L because there is no safe radon level.
The mitigation system that will work best depends on the type and size of your house. The three common foundation types are below-grade slab (basement), crawl space, and on-grade slab. Each type of foundation requires a different approach to radon mitigation.
How to choose the right radon system for your home
Hiring a contractor will be the best way to determine and install a radon mitigation system. Your contractor will visually examine your home to design a system that considers the features of your property.
The contractor may also conduct diagnostic tests to develop the best radon mitigation system if the foundation and construction materials necessitate it.
Benefits of radon mitigation
The main benefit of radon mitigation is that it reduces the risk of lung cancer. Radon exposure is the number 1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the leading cause of lung cancer deaths every year in the U.S.
You can’t detect damage from radon through medical tests until you develop symptoms. That’s why you shouldn’t overlook radon mitigation systems. In most homes, radon-reducing features will keep radon levels below 2 pCi/l. An effective radon mitigation system can reduce the radon level in your home by up to 99 percent.
The EPA has funded several studies that indicate radon mitigation systems also reduce moisture and soil gas intrusion.
Home sellers can also reap benefits by reducing risks by checking their homes for radon. If you want to put your house on the market, test your house for radon. Doing so will give you more time to address the problem and avoid surprises if a buyer conducts a radon test.
Radon mitigation systems
Radon mitigation systems disperse radon or prevent it from entering a home.
EPA recommends methods that prevent the entry of radon. For example, soil suction prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the house and venting it through pipes.
Radon mitigation in crawl spaces
A submembrane suction system is used in homes with a space between the soil. This method involves covering the earth floor with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan draw the radon from under the sheet and vent it outside.
You can sometimes lower radon levels by ventilating the crawlspace with a fan. Crawl space ventilation may reduce the home’s suction on the soil and underneath the house. Passive ventilation in a crawl space involves opening or installing vents.
Radon mitigation in basements
Basements are usually built by pouring concrete onto graded soil. Sub-slab-depressurization is done by drilling a hole through the concrete and attaching a pipe to release the gas. Some basements have a sump pump to drain water that accumulates below the concrete. You can add a radon suction pipe to the existing system.
Radon mitigation in homes
A contractor might seal cracks or openings in your home’s foundation as a first step. Doing so will help limit radon flow into the house and prevent the loss of ventilated air. It could take some pressure off your radon mitigation system and allow it to function better.
Sealing cracks and other openings
Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is one of the most common ways to reduce radon. Sealing the cracks limits the flow of radon into your home and reduces the loss of conditioned air.
EPA does not recommend sealing as the most effective measure because it hasn’t proved to lower radon levels significantly. It can also be challenging to identify the places where radon is entering.
House or room pressurization
House or room pressurization uses a fan to blow air into the basement or living area from upstairs or outdoors. It attempts to create enough pressure at the lowest level, like a basement, to prevent radon from going up. The effectiveness of this technique is limited by home construction, climate, and appliances in the house.
Proper ventilation in all home areas has been proven to reduce harmful radon levels. You can use ventilation to create room pressurization.
A heat recovery ventilator can introduce outdoor air while exhausting the heated or cooled air. They are most effective in reducing radon levels when ventilating only the basement.
Open the lower floors’ windows, doors, and vents to increase ventilation. The increase in ventilation can result in reduced radon levels. After you close windows, doors, and vents, radon returns to its previous concentration within 12 hours.
Radon tests for water
Radon can enter a water supply from groundwater and cause the same health effects as through the air. Public water systems that use groundwater have treatment systems to reduce radon levels. If you source from a private well, it’s a good idea to test your water for radon.
Your municipal building inspector can provide you with radon tests for your water. If you find harmful radon levels, you can treat the water with an aeration system or granular-activated carbon filters. You can also install and employ a device that removes radon from the water you use.
Radon mitigation system cost
A radon mitigation system’s cost ranges between $800-$2,000. The size of your home, construction and features will dictate the exact price.
Consult with the radon mitigation specialist to determine your exact price. They can help you choose the best type of radon mitigation and tell you what maintenance it will need.
Some cities and towns may require a permit for radon mitigation work. Your contractor will be able to help you out with that. You’ll, also, need to hire a licensed electrician if your mitigation plan involves a radon fan.
Types of radon mitigation systems
There are two main types of radon mitigation systems. Active suction systems, also called soil depressurization systems, are the most common. They use a fan to create a vacuum that removes trapped gas under your foundation. Passive depressurization systems do not use a fan. They rely on your home’s natural air to remove gas through a system of pipes.
Active soil depressurization is the most common radon mitigation method. A radon fan starts around $100 on the low end and can reach $3,000.
Passive depressurization also creates a collection chamber and pipe system, but there is no fan to pull the radon through the pipe. The price range is less than an active system, at $500 to $2,500.
Paying for radon mitigation
Local governments offer resources to help low-income individuals access radon mitigation. Some states have programs that donate radon test kits to those in need. Your state radon office should have current information about available programs.
Some radon-testing programs are available nationally.
The CDBG program funds the rehabilitation and repair of affordable housing and stabilizes low-income neighborhoods.
The 203k program is open to everyone. It offers long-term fixed loans of up to $35,000 for repairs and renovations in the home. The Environmental Justice Grants allocates funds to community-based organizations and tribal governments.
Although the radon mitigation system requires work and investment, the money is well worth it. Instead of doing radon tests, a radon mitigation system can alert you if the radon level in your home goes up. Many factors could affect the level of radon in your home – some of which are outside your control. A radon mitigation system can help you ensure that the radon level in your home stays below the limit recommended by the EPA.