According to the EPA, one out of 15 homes have elevated levels of radon, which is a tasteless, odorless gas that can cause serious health consequences.
When left unchecked, radon gas can slip into a home’s air and water supply, increasing the risks of lung cancer for occupants. In fact, the EPA estimates that radon exposure is responsible for more than 20 thousand cancer deaths each year. If you’re in the process of buying, selling or building a home, radon testing should be at the top of your list of steps to take. As a homeowner or seller, it’s vital you understand how radon testing is performed, where testing takes place and when radon systems are used to mitigate the risks of this dangerous gas.
Keep reading on to learn more about the radon testing process.
What Is Radon Gas and Where Does It Come From?
Radon gas occurs naturally as uranium breaks down in soil, rock and water. Although radon can enter homes through well water or even through some construction materials, such as granite or concrete, the greatest risk of radon entry into a home is through the soil.
It’s important to note that all homes can be at risk for having high levels of radon, regardless of age or location. This gas may be present in any region of the country and in all types of terrain. In fact, two homes right next to each other could have widely varying levels of this gas. That means that every home must be tested because there’s simply no way to predict if yours will or will not have high levels.
Radon Testing Options: Home Testing Kits Vs. Professional Testing
When it comes to radon gas testing, you can do it yourself with a home testing kit or hire a professional company. An elevated radon level that requires mitigation would be 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. If your radon level is between 2 and 4 pCi/L, you should consider fixing the issue.
Home Testing Kits: The benefits of home testing kits are cost, speed and convenience. These DIY kits often cost less than $50, take only a few days to perform, and are available at most local hardware and home improvement stores.
However, using a DIY radon testing kit means you sacrifice accuracy for convenience. Therefore, these tests are only recommended to identify if there is a problem. These tests are not meant to provide specific radon levels. If radon is detected, it is highly recommended that you hire a professional company to test your home.
If you decide to purchase a DIY test, here are several important steps you need to take to get the most accurate result possible:
- You must keep all of your home’s doors and windows closed for 12 hours before initiating testing, as well as during the test. This will prevent radon gas from escaping your home, which would yield inaccurate results.
- Because soil acts as the primary source of radon gas entry into a home, testing should be performed at the lowest point of your home’s living space.
- Depending on the test you purchased, you must leave it undisturbed for 48 to 96 hours. Check the product instructions for the exact testing time required.
- Finally, you must send your testing device to a laboratory for analysis when your testing is complete. This lab will provide the results of your radon test.
Professional Testing: If you are in the process of buying or selling a home, professional radon testing is recommended. This testing method is performed by trained and certified experts using precise, professional-grade equipment.
There are some very important differences in professional and home testing kits that you should understand:
- Professional testing includes examination of all potential causes of radon exposure, allowing companies to pinpoint the source.
- Reputable radon inspection companies will also test the soil around your home, often down to the third layer of earth.
- To check for radon-contaminated water, a professional company should check private wells, public water supplies and any groundwater sources.
If radon gas is identified during a professional test, the company you hired will typically help create a comprehensive plan to resolve the issue and make the home safe.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Testing
Home testing kits are usually considered short-term tests. Though convenient, these provide only a snapshot of a home’s radon levels, which can ebb and flow throughout the year.
Long-term tests, on the other hand, provide readings that are far more likely to be indicative of your home’s average radon levels throughout the year. Because long-term tests capture peaks and valleys in your radon levels, they are considered more accurate.
What to Do if Radon Gas Is Found in Your Home
If a professional inspection company identifies elevated levels of radon in your home, they will discuss various mitigation options with you. If, however, you performed a home test and the results came back as elevated, it is highly recommended that you contact a reputable team of specialists to come to your home to ensure that you and your family have a safe living environment.
If the company you hired confirms the presence of radon in dangerous levels, they will work with you to recommend the appropriate radon mitigation techniques and systems.
How Companies Select the Proper Radon Mitigation System
The radon mitigation company you hire should select a custom radon system to make your home safe. Because no two homes are the same, each requires a different solution because this gas may enter through several different avenues:
- Water supply
- Cavities inside walls
- Gaps in suspended floors and around service pipes
- Wall cracks and construction joints
- Cracks in your flooring
- Building materials used during construction
With so many ways for radon to enter your home, it’s essential you select an experienced, reputable company that can identify all the high-risk points in your home.
The type of radon system and mitigation techniques also depends on your home’s foundation. Homes with a basement, crawl space or slab may all require a different radon mitigation system. Furthermore, your home’s source of water may also dramatically alter the mitigation system put in place. At the same time, the radon gas levels and age of your home may also impact the mitigation technique.
With so many factors in play, it is essential the company you choose be familiar with all the options available, including the latest technologies and techniques.
Radon Systems Used in Mitigation
Although there are several radon mitigation techniques available, including physical barriers, Radon Systems of Connecticut uses four main types:
- Interior Installation of Active Soil Depressurization: In this system, a pipe is installed to run from the basement or garage through the closets. The pipe is then attached to a radon fan in the attic, which is vented through the pipes to the roof. This is the most popular form of radon mitigation.
- Active Soil Depressurization for Slabs: For homes built on a slab, a pipe is inserted into a section of slab in your home, and a fan is used to extract radon from soil gas below your home. The polluted air is then vented at the roof.
- Sub-Membrane Depressurization for Crawl Spaces: This method lowers air pressure in a home’s crawl space to match the indoor air pressure, stopping radon gas from being drawn into a home. A fan is then used to draw air from the crawl space, and the pipe carrying the radon-laden air is exhausted at the roof.
- Exterior Installation of Active Soil Depressurization: This exterior system is installed at the outside foundation of a home. It involves a vent that is connected to a ground-level fan that exhausts gases through pipes that run up to the roof.
Why Fight the Risks of Radon Exposure?
According to the EPA, radon gas exposure is second only to smoking as the primary cause of lung cancer in the U.S. In fact, the combined effect of smoking and radon exposure dramatically increases your risk of developing lung cancer. Other factors that influence your risk of radon exposure are the length of time you’ve lived in a home with high radon levels and the intensity of exposure.
Lung cancer kills more men and women in the U.S. than any other type of cancer. If you’re unsure whether your home has been tested for radon, don’t delay. The longer you are exposed, the greater the risks to your health.