Outside of smoking, radon is considered to be the leading cause of cancer. It’s a carcinogen that most people find in their homes. In order to reduce this, you have to properly vent your home and minimize the radon levels. Did you know there are guides to do this properly? It’s not something most people know about, but there are also professionals who assist you as well.
The bad thing about radon is it’s not something you can see or smell. In fact, it’s so undetectable to our regular perception; you need special equipment to realize its present. There are several different devices out there, but some include; alpha-track detectors, charcoal canisters, or charcoal liquid scintillation devices (which are passive). The good news is they don’t need an ounce of power to function. However, if you want something that continuously monitors radon then you will need one that uses power.
If you do this and realize radon is present, it’s important to figure out if they are at harmful levels. If so then it is time to figure out how to reduce it as much as possible. Your choice of remedies will depend on whether or not you want to prevent radon entry, or if you want to reduce it after entry. If you’re on the prevention line, the EPA suggests soil suction. However, this is going to depend on what type of house you own, because there may be better techniques for your situation.
It all starts with the foundation. Head to the basement and start using the soil suction on the sub slab, drain tile, sump hole, or even block wall suction.
If by chance you have crawlspace housing, try converting the dirt floor with a plastic sheet of high density. Once everything is in place you can grab a fan and vent pipe, then draw the radon out from under the sheet and vent it out. This is actually considered the best recommendation for crawlspace houses (called sub-membrane suction). Then of course you have depressurization where the air can be removed from the crawlspace with a more powerful fan. However, just opening vents or installing more can help to reduce radon in crawlspaces.
There is also the opportunity to use outdoor air and warm it with a heat recovery ventilator. This helps to increase the overall ventilation and minimize the radon levels in your home. While this can be done in any part of the home, it usually has the most benefits when working with basement projects.
When all else fails or sounds too difficult, the best place to come back to is natural ventilation. If you open vents, doors or windows on the lowest part of your home, it can definitely help. Once you’re able to mix both indoor and outdoor air together, it will basically saturate the radon levels. Keep in mind though that they will return within 12 hours once you close everything up again. So this is a short term solution.
In the end it’s just important to use the option that works best for your situation. Whether it’s the various ones we mentioned above or something like sealing and house/room pressurization, they all work. If you can figure out which option is geared for your home, the radon levels will soon diminish and you will feel much safer.
Instances of radon gas in homes are serious health and safety issues. Professional radon contractors can accurately detect radon levels in your home and, if they find a problem, can implement a radon mitigation solution appropriate to the situation.
Radon is a heavy gas created by the breakdown of uranium and is present in homes throughout the United States. Most of us have heard about radon gas and the danger it poses, but few people take appropriate steps to accurately evaluate or address the issue. This is largely because radon is not visible or tangible-it’s easy to ignore that there might be a problem. Nonetheless, radon is a serious danger, especially in parts of the country designated as “red zones” by the EPA. The only way to truly know if radon is an issue in your home is to employ a professional to thoroughly test the property. If they do find elevated radon levels, these experts will be able to work with you to design a radon mitigation system specifically for your home, dissipating the gas and making your home safe in the long term.
The presence of radon gas in your home should be serious safety concern. Radon usually seeps into buildings through the ground. A low level of radon is harmless, but if the radon gets trapped inside, the level becomes more concentrated and can contribute to the development of lung cancer, as well as cause harm to childrens’ developing lungs. There are a number of DIY radon detection kits on the market, but these products can be difficult to use effectively and are unlikely to provide complete detection service. If you are serious about doing radon testing, you should locate a radon contractor in your area. These professionals have the tools, experience, and expertise to evaluate your entire home with appropriate detection equipment. Not only will they be able to find out if radon is an issue, but they will also be able to accurately tell you in what concentration it is present.
If you find out that your home does contain dangerous levels of radon, your local radon contractors will also be able to safely and effectively address the problem. Each home and each radon occurrence is different, so it is essential that your radon mitigation plan is tailored to your specific situation. With hands-on knowledge and experience at their disposal, radon experts will be able to design a radon abatement program that targets the exact problem present in your home. The primary component of most radon mitigation systems involves locating the entry point for the radon (often at the basement level). The radon contractors then create a seal between the ground and your home and install a pump to vent the radon out into the atmosphere where it can dissipate. Radon experts will be able to perform such services completely and effectively, insuring long-term protection for you and your family.
Nothing is worse than knowing that there is a potential danger in your home, like radon gas, that you can’t see and can’t fix. Call on professional radon contractors to ease this worry. They will be able to perform the necessary radon test to find out if radon levels are dangerous in your house. If there is a problem, they’ll be able to eradicate it and make your home a safe haven once again.
Radon is an odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that all too often goes untested in homes. Elevated levels of radon pose serious health risks and have become responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States. To reduce your risk of radon exposure, it’s important to understand the causes of high radon levels as well as effective ways to maintain a safe radon level in your home.
What is Radon?
Radon is produced when uranium breaks down in rock, soil, and water. Though rock and water can emit small amounts of radon, soil is the primary source of elevated radon levels in U.S. homes. If the soil around your home has elevated levels, the radioactive gas can enter your home through cracks or other openings along the foundation, polluting the air you breathe. This gas can also enter your home through water, particularly through ground water sources or well system.
Testing for Radon
The only way to determine if your home has dangerous levels of radon is to administer a radon test. You can either hire a certified, independent contractor to test your home’s level, or you can use a Do-It-Yourself radon test kit. Either method is affordable and easily administered.
Studies show that the average level of radon in U.S. homes is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). This is wonderful considering the action level indicated by the EPA rests at 4.0 pCi/L. If your home shows a radon level of 4.0 pCi/L or higher, you could be at risk. Keep in mind that if you smoke and your home has an elevated radon level, you are at an even higher risk for contracting lung cancer and other harmful conditions.
How to Reduce Radon in Your Home
There are several steps you can take to reduce the radon level in your home, however, be sure to measure the radon levels first and implement a way to get the current radon out of your home. Otherwise, you might trap the radon and prevent it from exiting your home-quite counterproductive!
Seal cracks and/or openings along your home’s foundation to limit radon from entering. Focus on the lower levels of your home, such as the basement or garage. If your home has a crawlspace foundation, cover the ground with a high-density plastic sheet.
Prevent radon from entering your home with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). An HRV improves a home’s air quality by increasing ventilation and reducing radon levels. HRVs can ventilate your entire home or just a particular area that is susceptible to radon, such as the basement. Be sure to regularly change your HRV’s filter to ensure optimal results.
Pressurization is an effective radon reduction technique designed to increase the pressure in a home’s basement, where radon typically enters from the soil. This increase in pressure prevents radon from entering the home through its lower levels.
For temporary radon reduction, open windows, doors, and lower-level vents to let in outdoor air and increase natural ventilation.
Testing your home for radon is easy and inexpensive, and can drastically reduce your risk of lung cancer. You can perform a radon test yourself or hire a professional. So don’t wait — take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of radon exposure in your home today!
Sub-slab depressurization or sub-slab suction is probably the most reliable and effective radon mitigation technique. It involves an insertion of a pipe (usually 4 inches in diameter) through the floor slab into the soil or gravel under the foundation. This can be done either from inside the house, or inserted under the slab from the outside. As a side note, this technique is used for houses with a basement or slab-on-grade foundation. If your house has a crawl space, a different technique is used.
Just to give you a quick idea of what’s involved, you’ll need to create a hole (aka suction point) in your slab (approx 4 inches in diameter), remove as much soil and/or gravel from under the foundation as possible, put in place a pipe running out from this suction point to a suitable location, where a special exhaust fan will generate vacuum pressure that will draw radon out from underneath the slab to the outside, thus preventing the radon gas from entering your home. Right, you may say, and I know, because that’s what I said when I first read about this a few years back. Believe me, if you do this right, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t, you’ll see a remarkable decrease in your radon levels, which will often be accompanied by a fresher indoor air quality as well (this is one positive side effect of installing this system).
Now, there are different ways of going about this, but I am going to go through one example … in my opinion probably the most likely solution for the majority of home owners (remember, this is not for a house with a crawl space)
My best advice for you is to pick the spot most convenient to run the pipe out of the basement and start there with a hole. I do think that a suction point near the footer tends to produce better results because there is often more settling there, but really that is not of the greatest importance. You should definitely determine where the pipe will have to exit the basement before you start drilling holes in your floor. Also make sure you are aware of potential drain and water pipes, and possible electrical conduits or in-floor heating.
I am going to assume that if you plan on doing this yourself, you don’t need me to tell you how to make a hole in your slab. Well anyway, one way is to drill a series of holes and then chisel and hammer out the cement chunk. The hole should be slightly larger than the 4” pipe you’ll be using.
Once you have the hole made, it’s time to dig. This is probably the worst part of the job, and it could be relatively easy or very hard, depending on what lies underneath. For best results try removing as much as possible. You are trying to create a sort of a vacuum chamber under the slab that will draw in radon and moisture from underneath the entire foundation, so this can make or break your mitigation system. No matter what you have underneath the slab, be it sand, gravel, soil, or any combination of these, try to get 20-30 gallons out, and more if possible, specially for tight soils. REMEMBER this will be the difference between a mitigation system that works and one that doesn’t.
When we did our house, I spent hours scraping away buckets of dirt and gravel till my forearms were bruised. I managed to get about 30 gallons out, and let me tell you, it was worth it.
RUNNING THE PIPES
If you have an attached garage, I would recommend going from the basement, into the garage, and then to the attic, as this is the most feasible solution. Your second choice is to go through the floor above, perhaps through a closet or some other point where the pipe is either not visible or will be easily concealed, and then into the attic where your suction fan would be. The third choice is taking the pipe outside of your house. Personally, I think an outside system should be avoided all together unless there aren’t any other options. Even if it takes a little more effort on your part, try and stick to the indoors for your piping and fan system. Colder climates especially will result in a lot of condensation that can reduce the life expectancy of your radon exhaust fan. You can purchase a condensation bypass kit if you mount your fan outside to prevent water and condensation from ruining your motor.
Back to work… Now that you have your suction point ready, you can use a coupler and secure it using a foam backer (but really you can also use whatever you see fit). Once all your pipes are in place and secure you should caulk this joint for an airtight seal. For the piping, you can use any type of good PVC piping that will fit into whatever you’re using, and make sure that you measure well before you glue your PVC to your elbows and joints. In our home we used a 4 inch sewer pipe and glueless joints/elbows (they have a double rubber seal on the inside to form a water and air proof seal, and the advantage is that you can separate the pipes if you mess up. The only downside is that they are a few bucks more, and really hard to put on, or take off for that matter).
Contrary to what you might be thinking, you cannot just use any ordinary fan for this job. If you are going to invest your time and energy into this, you have to do things right, and you’ll need a special fan that is capable of creating vacuum pressure under the slab without the fan burning out, that can withstand the elements, cold, and moisture, and that will do the job quietly and efficiently.
For your safety, you exhaust Fan has to be located outside of your home’s living space. This leaves you with an option to put your fan in the garage, the attic, or outside. Furthermore, the pipe leading from your fan to the outside must terminate above the plane of the roof, and must be no closer than 10 feet horizontally from windows that open. This is to minimize the possibility of radon re-entering your home.
The size and price of your fan will vary and depends on the square footage of your foundation. The type of soil also plays a role in the fan decision, as you might need a more powerful fan for tighter soils.
As an example if your foundation is anywhere up to 1200 Square feet and your sub-soil is a gravel mixture, an RP145 by RadonAway should be quite sufficient. Most retailers will have a chart or table of different fans, ranging from 3” to 8” duct systems, the latter being used for large projects, such as a school.
Finally no matter where you end up placing your fan, you will need to bring it power. For this, you might need to call an electrician, or not, depending on whether you have a plug-in nearby. Luckily, my father is an electrician, and so we have our fan wired in directly to a switch for ease of maintenance. As you might have guessed we have the RP145 fan installed in the attic above our garage, and it is virtually silent.
As a side note, each fan comes with a suggested maximum operating pressure. This basically informs you how well your entire mitigation system is performing, how much pressure is being created by the fan, and whether you have sufficient airflow under the slab. To keep an eye on your system and to see that it is functioning nominally, I strongly suggest getting something like this Installation Kit for RadonAway System . It includes a manometer which basically tells you what pressure your system is holding. It’s inexpensive, easy to install, and well worth it. These kits also include couplings, which are intended to tie in your fan to the PVC piping(shown in the picture with the RP145 Fan) and I’d recommend using these, as they allow not only for a perfect tight fit with your piping, but also easy future fan replacement or maintenance.
Our radon levels in the basement were always hovering at around 25 and up to 31 pci/L, and around 20 pci/L on the main floor, during the cold winter months. Summers were ranging from 8 to 12 pci/L. After we installed the subslab mitigation system our levels are averaging 1.4 during the coldest months, and 0.4 to 0.8 pci/L in the summer. The picture to the right is from our own Safety Siren Pro 3 Radon Detector. Click on it to see a larger version. It was taken on January 31, 2010. We have been using it for over 2 years now, and had several of our neighbours borrow it for some time as well. If you find that you have a radon problem, you are probably better off getting one of these instead of the charcoal or alpha track test kits that need to be sent in to a lab. These are not cheap, they go for US $130.00, but they are very accurate and convenient to use.
If you are interested in prices or would like to purchase one, here are a couple of suppliers in the States. They also provide a lot of additional information about their products.
Radon Zone – These guys are offering free shipping, unfortunately they only ship to the States (sorry Canadian customers). They supply other, short and long term, radon test kits, as well as the Safety Siren Pro 3.
National Safety Products – These guys dont offer free shipping but they do ship to Canada, and they do offer discounts if you plan on purchasing more than one item. They also supply other radon products.
I wish you all the best and hope you get those radon levels down just like we did.
Pressurization uses a fan to blow air into the basement or living area from either upstairs or outdoors. The goal here is to create enough pressure (positive pressure) at the lowest level indoors, such as in a basement, to prevent radon from entering the house. The effectiveness of this technique can be limited by house construction and climate. In order to maintain enough pressure to keep radon out, the doors and windows at the lowest level must not be left opened, except for normal entry and exit. Blowing air out of the basement to reduce radon levels, although seemingly a good idea, might actually increase the flow of radon into your home. As you blow air out, a vacuum effect is created (negative pressure) which will cause greater influx of radon into your basement from the surrounding soil.
Another form of ventilation is natural ventilation, which is achieved simply by opening doors and windows at the lower levels of your home. Natural ventilation mixes outdoor air with the radon contaminated indoor air, thus reducing overall radon levels.
There are some obvious drawbacks to both of the above techniques. Once you close your windows and doors, or turn off your fan that blows air into your basement, radon concentrations most often return to previous values within about 12 hours. Furthermore, as a result of more outdoor air being introduced into the home, you might see moisture intrusions, loss of conditioned air, and energy penalties, particularly during the winter months.
Consequently, both of these techniques are regarded as only temporary approaches to radon reduction and should only be considered after the other, more-common techniques (such as sub-floor mitigation) have not sufficiently reduced radon levels.
Another form of mechanical ventilation can be accomplished by installing a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), sometimes referred to as air-to-air heat exchanger. HRVs ventilate by introducing outdoor air while using the heated or cooled air being exhausted to warm or cool the incoming air. The advantage of an HRV system over other ventilation techniques is that besides supplying balanced ventilation, a HRV will reduce the energy penalty associated with providing more ventilation to a home. As an added benefit, an HRV can improve air quality in houses that have other indoor pollutants.
Sealing the cracks in the foundation and other openings, such as drainage and sump pump sinks, is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. This technique reduces the flow of radon into your home thereby making other radon reduction techniques more effective and cost-efficient, and also reduces the loss of conditioned air. This technique, however, has its limitations. It is difficult to identify and permanently seal all the places where radon can enter, and if you have a finished basement, this is almost impossible without extensive and possibly expensive work. Furthermore, even if you were able to do so in an unfinished basement, normal settling of your house will eventually open new entry routes and reopen old ones.
You can try a special floor drain adapter for your drainage holes in your basement. I myself have purchased couple of these Dranjer D-R2 floor drains. They allow for water to flow down the drain but prevent any gas/air from coming up through it into the living space. According to the website I purchased these from it does the following: “Dranjer seals permit unrestricted flow of water into floor drains or sump pits while sealing out the entry of mold spores, insects and radon gas from the sub-slabe floor area.” To be completely honest, I am not sure these worked very well, as my radon detector did not register any significant changes.
As a side note: EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon because, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently