Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon is a carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, gas that forms when uranium, radium, or thorium breaks down in soil and rock. Due to its lack of color and odor, it is impossible for humans to detect. Initial contact with the gas can cause breathing difficulties and health issues, but prolonged exposure has been linked to lung cancer. Radon can occur in any type of home anywhere in the country and seeps up through cracks in concrete and almost every kind of building material. A build-up of this gas inside a home accelerates the damage it can cause, so testing and mitigation are crucial. 

What is Radon Mitigation? 

Radon Mitigation is any system used to prevent the gas from entering the home or dispersing the build-up so levels drop below their ability to cause harm. These systems utilize some form of ventilation to redirect radon gasses and prevent a buildup of harmful levels in enclosed spaces. The type of mitigation system that you use depends on the foundation structure of your home, and you can utilize a combination of systems if your home has more than one type of foundation, which is not uncommon. Some systems can be installed during the home’s construction and be built-in, and you can add some after the fact. You can do some repairs to an older home to reduce the amount of radon that can leak into the house. 

Benefits of Radon Mitigation

The primary benefit of radon mitigation is that it reduces the risk of lung cancer in individuals in the home. Radon exposure is the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, responsible for between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the US. Damage from radon exposure cannot be detected explicitly through medical tests until the cancer symptoms begin showing, and by then, it is too late, and the damage is done. This is why detection in the home and mitigation systems should not be overlooked. All new home buyers should include radon testing as a part of the general inspection if the seller has not done their due diligence and provided recent test results. Homes with installed radon mitigation systems should still be tested every two years and anytime the building undergoes significant alteration, especially at ground level. 

Radon Mitigation Systems

Different systems are used based on how the home was initially built. Still, they all work in similar ways to disperse radon or prevent it from entering a home entirely. 

Radon Mitigation in Crawlspaces

In homes with a space between the soil that radon will seep from and the home floor, a submembrane suction system is used. First, a virtually impenetrable polyethylene sheet is put down to cover the soil and sealed to the walls. The radon underneath is then vented outdoors through a pipe. Once the radon reaches open air, the radon dissipates and is no longer at a harmful concentrated level. In some cases, due to the size and shape of the crawlspace, the sheet and suction method is not deemed necessary, and either active or passive ventilation is added to reduce radon levels. This is done with fans or by installing additional vents in the space to prevent buildup. 

Radon Mitigation in Basements

Basements are usually formed by pouring concrete directly onto graded soil. In these cases, sub-slab-depressurization is done by drilling a hole through the concrete into the soil and then a pipe is attached to direct the released gasses outdoors. Some basements are already fitted with a sump pump designed to drain water that accumulates below the concrete, and you can add a radon suction pipe to the already existing system. 

Radon Mitigation in Homes

The first approach to radon reduction a contractor might make is to seal any cracks or openings in your home’s foundation. This limits the flow of radon into the home and prevents the loss of ventilated air so your radon mitigation system can function most efficiently. Although this step is initial, you should not use it alone as it is impossible to detect and seal every possible leak, and new ones can occur at any time. You should use it in conjunction with other mitigation systems. 

Having proper ventilation in basement spaces and all areas of the home has proven very effective in reducing harmful radon levels. You can use ventilation to create room pressurization, which uses fans to blow air to the lowest level of the home, creating enough pressure at this level that it prevents radon from being able to enter. Suppose you do not have a ventilation or mitigation system at the soil or basement level. In that case, you cannot consider your home’s existing HVAC or ventilation system as functional long-term radon mitigation since it is only effective as long as the system is running. Building radon gasses in a basement or crawlspace is a lingering hazard as soon as the system stops running efficiently. 

Radon also can enter a water supply that sources from groundwater and cause the same adverse health effects as radon gas. Public water systems that use groundwater have treatment systems to reduce radon levels before reaching a household, but if you source from a private well, you will need to test and treat yourself. Your municipal building inspector can provide you with radon tests for your water. Should harmful levels be detected, you can choose to treat the water before it enters your home using an aeration system or granular activated carbon filters. Alternatively, you can install and employ a device that removes radon only from the water you use. 

Radon Mitigation System Cost (300 words)

A radon mitigation system ranges in cost from $800-$2000, and several factors contribute to the final price. The size of your home, of course, and how much ventilation is needed overall for the space will dictate how much installation will cost as well as the local cost of materials and environmental factors that need to be worked around. Suppose your home already includes components that can be modified to accommodate a radon mitigation system. In that case, the cost will be lower than homes that need invasive construction to install the system. Some homeowners also prioritize the aesthetics of their home, so while it may not cost much to install and run radon ventilation pipes outside of the home, retrofitting them to be invisible will incur additional costs. 

Paying for Radon Mitigation

If you want to have radon testing done, use the National Radon Proficiency Program or the National Radon Safety Board to find certified radon professionals in your area. They will also be able to advise you on which radon mitigation system will be most effective for your home. 

Due to the extremely harmful effects of radon exposure, there are multiple resources to help low-income individuals access radon mitigation. Some states have government programs built in that direct funds to local radon professionals who then donate radon reduction work to those in need. Your state radon office should have current information about participating businesses. 

There are also programs available nationally. The CDBG program funds the rehabilitation and repair of affordable housing and focuses on stabilizing low-income neighborhoods. The 203k program is open to everyone and is a long-term fixed loan that homeowners can apply for to receive up to $35,000 for repairs and renovations in the home. Lastly, the Environmental Justice Grants allocates funds to community-based organizations and tribal governments to help them address the environmental concerns of low-income communities and people of color.