How To Fix
There are a variety of methods used to reduce the radon levels within a home. Some work much better than others and some aren't recommended at all. Don't try fancy air filters, furnace filters, ozone machines, air purifiers, ultra-violet lights, or any of the other gadgets being sold. They do absolutely nothing to reduce radon levels in the home. The best way to reduce radon is to attack the source and prevent it from entering. (see "Radon Removal Systems" below).
The easiest way to reduce radon is to keep all the windows of the home open, especially all of the basement windows. Keeping basement windows open helps to minimize the negative pressure within the lower part of the home and helps to dilute the radon. For this to work though, the windows need to be kept open all the time. If not, radon returns to full strength in as little as 6 hours. The problem with this method is that it takes a lot of fresh air to dilute radon. In the summer and wintertime, this can be very uncomfortable and greatly increase your utility bills. If you’d like to use a window fan to increase airflow, make sure that the fan is blowing air from outside into the basement, not the other way around. If the fan is blowing air out of the basement, it can increase the negative pressure that draws radon into your home and your radon level can go up instead of down.
Since radon is drawn into the house from the soil, sealing openings in the basement floors or walls with caulk can help to reduce the amount of radon entering the home. Seal as many of the cracks as you can get to and if you have a sump pump, seal the lid airtight. Cracks in the basement floors, walls and other openings can allow radon to come in easier so caulking work can make a big difference. It some cases, however, sealing cracks and sump pits can increase your radon level by reducing the amount of fresh air that was coming in instead of contaminated air. Always re-test within a few weeks after attempting any radon work. Sometimes, sealing work has no effect at all. This is because radon is virtually the same size as a helium molecule, (extremely small) and can pass through most materials, even concrete. Openings and cracks in the foundation/floor just make it easier.
Radon Removal Systems
The most effective way to get rid of radon is to install a removal system that draws the radon out of the soil before it even has an opportunity to enter the house. These systems are called "Sub Slab Depressurization Systems" or "Active Soil Depressurization Systems". These systems operate by using a piping and fan system that depressurizes the soil that surrounds the home. This in effect reverses the pressure differential between the soil and the lower portion of your home. You'll still have the same pressures within your house that you've always had and never noticed, but the radon will be vented safely outside so that it can dissipate harmlessly into the atmosphere. It doesn’t take much of a pressure differential to draw radon into a home, and it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to draw it out.
Sometimes these systems can be piped up through the house and out the roof or are installed on the outside of the house. Depending on the type of house, you may need a system that pulls the radon out from below the basement slab, out of block walls or from the crawlspace. Every home is different but usually the most important factor regarding the method of installation is the type of soil around your house and it’s porosity. Homes with clay soils are much more difficult to pull air through than homes built on gravel. Since every home is so different, the EPA recommends hiring a certified radon mitigator to do this type of work and does not advise homeowners to try this on their own. An improperly installed system could raise the radon level or cause other problems like back drafting of the furnace or water heater pulling in carbon monoxide - another deadly gas. Costs can vary from $800 to $2,500 but could be more depending on what work needs to be done. Systems only cost pennies a day to operate and require almost no maintenance.
What Type Of System Is Best For My House?
A radon specialist can help to determine which type of system is best for you. Your home may need a combination of types and may also need sealing work as part of the system. A radon mitigator will usually perform diagnostics before any type of system is installed to determine what is best for your particular home. Diagnostics normally consists of drilling a few small ½” holes through the concrete that will later be plugged and sealed. These test holes allow the specialist to determine where the radon is coming from, types of soil and where the suction point(s) need to be for your particular home. Homes with crawlspaces, or homes built on ground level all require different approaches, but when designed and installed properly, systems can reduce radon levels by up to 99%. In some cases these systems can bring your radon level down to the same as the outside air!
Benefits Of A Radon Removal System
Of course the single largest benefit of having a radon removal system is low radiation exposure and a greatly reduced chance of getting cancer, but many other benefits have also been reported. As radon removal systems safely exhaust the radon, they also remove other chemicals and gases that are commonly found in the soil around our homes like insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, methane and carbon dioxide. Cleaner air means better health. These systems also remove moisture from the ground and can help to keep basements drier and prevent mold growth. Smart home buyers are now asking for a radon test as part of the inspection process so if you already have a radon removal system in place, you may sell your home faster or even get more for it. One of the biggest benefits though is peace of mind and knowing that you’re doing the right thing for yourself and your family.
How To Choose A Radon Specialist
In most States, both radon testers and radon mitigators are required to complete an approved training course and pass a written exam. If your State requires certification, make sure the company you hire has been properly trained and certified.
Choose a radon specialist like you would a teacher, lawyer or doctor. You want the best your family can afford. There is no substitute for experience so select a mitigator with the most experience you can find in your area. It's also smart to look for the one that offers the best guarantee and longest warranty. Try to find a mitigator that will give you a firm price not an open ended estimate. It's also nice to find one that provides a free test after the work is completed. Just like any type of service, there are a wide variety of companies to choose from and price isn’t always the best judge of quality. The best mitigators won’t just look at your house and tell you what is needed. They will conduct diagnostics first to determine what is best for your particular style of house and soil characteristics. After diagnostics, they should be able to give you several options on how the system is installed and let you choose whichever you prefer. If the person you choose doesn’t perform diagnostics, you probably picked the wrong guy. Usually, the better the mitigator you hire, the lower your final radon level will be.
Building A New Home?
Be sure to ask your builder to have a "passive" radon system installed during construction. The required piping can be hidden in the walls, vented out of the roof and tied into the drainage tiling system below your basement floor. If it tests high for radon after the home is completed, all you need to do is add the fan!
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