Tag Archives: radon

Home Radon Gas: How to Detect and Use Testing Kits

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally. It is a chemical element existing as a by-product of the natural decay of uranium, an element in the ground that been around since the earth was formed therefore it is found in low levels everywhere. When radon becomes trapped in buildings, concentrations can increase in indoor air and radon exposure then becomes a concern.

We need to be very much alert that radon is a deadly gas. It is one of the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, only second to cigarette smoking which is the number one responsible for lung cancer deaths. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General have strongly recommended that all residences (except those above the 2nd floor in multi-level buildings) be tested for radon. Needless to say, smokers with high levels of radon in the home has much greater risk of getting lung cancer.

How Radon Gets in Home
Uranium is a radioactive element that decays and forms radium which gives off radon gas, it then travels up through the ground and infiltrates the water and air we breathe. When it reaches the surface of the ground, the gas can go directly into the air where it does not usually do any damage, or it can seep into a building where it collects and causes health problems.

Some parts of the US are more susceptible to radon gas than others. The difference between the higher pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation and the lower air pressure inside your home makes your house act like vacuum, that radon gas gets drawn in through cracks, open seams, holes and just about any openings below the surface of the ground.

Since radon may also presents in well water, it can be released into the air in your home via showering water and other household water uses, though the risk is small compared to the radon amount entered from the soil. For small number of homes, the building materials may also give off radon gas, although they rarely cause problems alone.

Methods to Detect Radon Level
You have to perform a test in order to find out if radon is in a building. That is the only way. The EPA recommends two ways of testing:

Short-Term or Passive Testing – This is the cheapest and quickest way. Depending on the device you choose, they can remain in your home for 2 to 90 days. Charcoal canisters, electret ion chamber, continuous monitors and charcoal liquid scintillation detectors are most commonly used in short term testing. Because radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season, a short term test offers a less conclusive evaluation than a long term test. For quickest yet firmer results, do a short term test followed by another passive test as such.

Many types of low cost short term “do it yourself” radon test kits are available in hardware stores and home centers. Make sure to buy a test kit that has passed EPA’s testing program or is state certified. You should see phrase like “Meets EPA Requirements” displayed on the kits. They are quite inexpensive.

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Long Term or Active Testing – This is a more expensive way and the testing kit has to be remained in the home for more than 90 days. There are two types of commonly used test kits: Alpha track and electret detectors. A long term test gives you a reading that is most likely to tell your home’s year round average radon level. Radon gas detectors that monitor gas levels on a continuous basis are also available.

Hire an EPA qualified or state certified radon tester if you prefer, some lenders may require certified test results to close the transaction when buying or selling a home.

How to Use a Radon Test Kit
Always follow the instructions that come with the test kit. Place the radon test kit in the lowest living space of the property. It should be put in a room that is used regularly, but not your kitchen or bathroom. Put the kit at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it won’t be disturbed. Keep it away from drafts, high heat, high humidity and exterior walls. Leave the kit in place for as long as the package says, do not take away earlier than that. When finished testing, reveal the package, send it to the package specified lab directly. Normally you should receive the results within a couple of weeks.

Note that if you are doing a very short test that lasts only 2-3 days, be sure to close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours in advance; for longer period of testing, keep the windows and outside doors as much as possible during the test. Keep in mind: Do Not conduct 2 to 3-day passive tests during severe storms or unusually high winds. The results will not be accurate.

Interpreting Test Results
The amount of radon in the air is generally measured in picocuries of radon per liter of air (pCi/l), or may be expressed in Working Levels (WL) sometimes. Based on the EPA standards, amount of radon that is higher than 4 pCi/l or 0.002 WL is considered too high that corrective measures should be taken to fix the problem. If your initial short term test result is higher than 4 pCi/l or 0.002 WL, the EPA recommends that you take a second test to be sure. For a better understanding of the radon levels in your home, taking a long term test is recommended.

Any radon exposure carries some risk, even the levels below EPA set standard. So lower the radon amount sometimes is necessary. This would be in the next hub – Radon Reduction Techniques.

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Jacklyn Chen – Webmaster of Gift Ideas and Magazine Subscriptions

Author: Jacklyn Chen
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
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Radon Mitigation – Fixing a Radon Problem the Right Way

What needs to be done?

If a home’s radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or more, the EPA recommends a radon mitigation system (sometimes called radon remediation) to be installed.

A common method utilized to reduce the radon level is “sub slab depressurization”.  In this case, a suction point or points are determined and a pipe is inserted through the concrete slab floor.  This pipe is connected to other PVC piping and a fan is positioned on the pipe outside the living area. The fan then draws the radon gas from beneath the home and vents it to the outside.  A radon mitigation system can cost between $900-$2500. 

Choosing a Mitigation Company

A qualified mitigation company is your best choice for installation of a radon mitigation system.

In many states, these companies or individuals are certified by a state regulatory agency such as the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection).  If this is not true in your state, then you should look for a qualified mitigator who is NEHA (National Environmental Health Association) certified.  When choosing a radon mitigation company, you should ask for their state or NEHA certification number, if they offer free estimates, and a warranty on the system.

Typically, the mitigation company will visit the home to determine the best configuration of the system and the size of the fan for the type of foundation the house is built on.  An estimate of cost for a system can then be determined.  After choosing the contractor, plan on 1-2 days for installation. 

As always, beware of the lowest bidder.  Check for references, job examples, and the amount of time the contractor has been in business.

Life After Radon Mitigation

It is recommended that a radon mitigation system be tested after installation. A test may be performed after the system has been operational for 24 hours or more.  A short-term test is usually used for the initial test. In some cases, the estimate given by the contractor may include the retest by a professional company or radon test kits.

A follow-up test is suggested every year to monitor the system’s continued effectiveness.

Arick Amspacker is a certified radon technician and home inspector. Over the years he has taught continuing education courses for Realtors and many first time home buyers seminars, as well as a Community College course on inspections and radon. His website http://www.homeradontest.com sells various types of inexpensive, easy to use radon testing devices, and http://www.radonreporter.com offers a resource for radon information.

Author: Arick Amspacker
Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Whole House Air Purifiers And Radon Gas – Are Air Purifiers Effective At Getting The Gas Out

Radon gas can seep in through your crawl space or basement. Unfortunately, you can’t tell if it is in your home without a test because it is odorless and invisible. It is found naturally in soil and rock in many areas of the country, and many people are being slowly poisoned by it without even knowing. To be safe, you should contact your local government agency and ask for a testing kit. Most states have them and give them away for free. If the test comes back positive, it is crucial that you buy an air purifier. A whole house air purifier is one of the best defenses in the battle against radon.

If you discover a radon gas problem in your home, a whole house air purifier is the way to go. They’re located in your basement or crawlspace, away from the main living areas of the home. A fan vents the radon-rich air out from the basement before it can seep into the rest of the house. Metal ducts pump the air from the fan of the air purifier to the outside of your home. An extra, useful step is to seal up any cracks and gaps where air can get in. By combining a good air purifier system with some diligent sealing, you’ll practically eliminate any radon threat.

An added benefit to a whole house unit being in the basement is the fact that you won’t hear it running. They do tend to be loud, so this is a great advantage many people don’t even think about when they’re considering buying one.

Whole house air purifiers have extra benefits beyond venting out radon gas. They can remove many other troubling issues as well. With the use of optional filters such as heap or carbon, mold spores, dust, pet dander, smoke fumes and pollen can all be captured and eliminated too. If you are prone to allergies, have pets, or just want to breath cleaner air, buying a whole house air purifier will be a decision well made.

Whole house air purifiers vs. room units

But what about smaller, less expensive models? Granted, the price of whole house air purifiers can be two to three times the cost (or more) of single room air purifiers. The problem however, is if you’ve got air quality problems in your home, cleaning the air in one room will rarely solve the issue. So you wind up having to purchase several individual purifiers to do the job of one whole house unit. Now the cost issue becomes a moot point.

On top of that, a whole house purifier moves the air with metal ducting, so you really don’t see it. Stand-alone purifiers are often ugly and don’t blend well with your rooms décor. So unless you live in a really small space, a whole house purifier is really the way to go.

So if you’ve got radon problems or even something less serious, take a genuine look at a whole house air purifier system. They can be purchased and installed for around $1000.00 in most markets and they represent money well spent.

Ryan MacPhee is a professional contractor, real estate investor and part time writer with over twenty years of experience. You can read more about his experience with air purifier systems here [http://www.myairpurifier.net%20]. Check out some of his mortgage financing tips and techniques here [http://www.allaboutmortgagecalculators.com/Mortgage_Calculator_Confusion.html]. Have a look here if you’re interested in home remodeling ideas [http://www.home-remodeling-tips-and-tricks.com/What_Are_The_Costs_Of_Remodeling_A_Home.html].

Author: Ryan MacPhee
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
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Radon – The Invisible Killer

Radon is a colorless, tasteless, naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soil and rock that is a by-product of decaying uranium. You might be thinking, I’ve heard of uranium, don’t they make bombs from that? Well, yes they do, but uranium occurs naturally in rocks all around the globe. Some areas have a natural propensity to have higher concentrations of uranium than others.

Why radon is dangerous

We are all walking around with a bit of radiation in our bodies, and radon is by far the largest contributor to a person’s overall amount of radiation they are carrying around. Breathing high doses of radon has been scientifically proven to cause lung cancer. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon could be the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking causing 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon-induced lung cancer ranks as the 6th leading cause of cancer deaths overall. Other forms of cancer may be related to radon exposure. Studies are underway to see if there exists a relationship between radon exposure and leukemia.

Where radon is

Remember radon gas is formed as a by-product of soil containing granite or shale (the two of which carry larger than average amounts of uranium). But we’re talking very small amounts. On average, every square mile of surface soil, to a depth of 6 inches, contains only 1 gram of radium which is responsible for releasing radon into the atmosphere. Worldwide, the amount of radon varies greatly and is variable within a given region and even from room to room in a house.

Is radon in my home?

Radon exits the ground and can seep into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation. Radon gas can also contaminate well water. We know that radon concentrations are usually higher in areas near major fault lines so in Southern California we should be aware and take the proper precautions.

Knowing the characteristics of radon gas should help protect you and your family from exposure. First, radon gas being heavier than air tends to settle in low lying areas. With adequate ventilation, radon gas cannot become concentrated to a level to cause harm. On the other hand, in enclosed areas such as inside buildings, basements and crawl spaces, radon gas levels can become harmful. Second, if you smoke, stop! The effects of radon exposure in people that smoke is synergistic; i.e. the effect of smoking coupled with higher than average levels of radon exposure is greater than the sum of the two parts measured separately.

The EPA claims that 1 in 15 U.S. homes has radon levels above the recommended guideline. Their guideline of what is acceptable is roughly equivalent to receiving 200 chest x-rays over one’s lifetime. Their current recommendation (and that of the US Surgeon General) is that all homes be monitored for radon levels.

How to test for radon

Home kits are available in most home centers but it is claimed that their results might not be reliable. A better option would be to hire a professional home inspector with experience in radon testing. Professional tests are reliable in determining if your home has areas in it where radon levels are above the threshold set forth by the EPA. The tests are non-invasive and begin by placing a measurement device near the floor on the lower level of the home. Additional tests may be recommended by the inspector if you have any granite surfaces in your home, like a kitchen countertop. Other than placing the collection devices where recommended, nothing is done. There are some specific instructions that you must follow regarding the testing site(s) like keeping the windows and doors shut as much as possible. Testing may have to be postponed if your area is experiencing high winds or a pending storm, or if humidity levels are high (all of which may adversely affect the test results).

The inspector will return in 2-7 days to collect the devices after which time they are sent to a lab for analysis. Results are usually available shortly thereafter.

How to remove radon

The EPA recommends you use mitigation (control) techniques to reduce indoor radon if levels in your home are above the recommended threshold. Mitigation methods include adding positive pressure ventilation in your home which effectively creates a pressure differential (higher pressure in your home, gas cannot flow in). Sealing all floor penetrations to help prevent the gas from seeping into your home from below is also a good idea. Be advised that ventilating your basement or crawl space IS NOT RECOMMENDED as some people suggest. This flawed mitigation technique practiced by many companies could have the adverse effect of bringing more radon gas in which naturally exists outside the footprint of your home’s foundation.

Homebuyers: be sure to read this

If you are in the process of purchasing a home ask your Realtor to include a radon contingency in your offer to purchase. This clause states the maximum level of radon that is acceptable to you and your family. Afterwards, hire a company to survey the home for radon gas levels. Radon testing is offered by most professional home inspection companies so be sure to ask this question when interviewing home inspectors in your area. If radon levels are found to be above the levels set by you in your contingency, this clause will afford you the right to back out of the contract without penalty.

Facts to remember about radon gas

  • Just because your next door neighbor’s house has tested high for radon gas does not mean your home is at risk.
  • Houses with basements are not at a higher risk for radon than houses without basements.
  • Radon levels vary region to region, and even from house to house on the same street.

This article is free to copy and use on your website or other publication providing the information below is included in your article.

Darin Redding is owner of Housecall Property Inspections, a professional San Diego Home Inspection company. Original Article Source: Radon San Diego

Author: Darin Redding
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
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Subslab Depressurization

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)

SUCTION POINT

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).

THE FAN

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.

RP145 fan with couplings and  Dynameter
RP145 Fan by Radonaway and a manometer on a 4 inch 100mm sewer pipe

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.

FINAL NOTE

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.

Radon – an introduction

Radon - 222
Radon - 222

Rn is the chemical symbol for radon. It is a radioactive gas that  occurs naturally and can be found in soils, rock, and water throughout the world. It has numerous different isotopes, but radon-220, and -222 are the most common. Radon is a gas that is created in the soils where uranium and radium are found. Since these elements can be found everywhere in the world any building has the potential for elevated levels of radon. The more uranium found in the soil, the higher the potential for elevated radon levels within that building.

Because radon is an inert (or noble) gas, meaning that it does not react or combine chemically with other substances except under certain special conditions, it can move up through the soil into the atmosphere, where it is easily diluted and presents little concern. However, when radon enters a building, it can build up and become a health concern

You cannot see or smell radon, and there is no way that your body can sense the presence of radon; however, it can have a detrimental effect on the inhabitants by increasing their likelihood of developing lung cancer.

How radon gets into your home!!!

how radon enters a home
how radon enters a home

Since radium 226 can be found in low concentrations in almost all rock and soil, it is not a question of “if”, but “how much” radon you really have. Radon is generated in rock and soil and it escapes into the atmosphere through cracks and spaces between the rocks and soil. This results in an average outdoor radon concentration of about 0.4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). At these concentrations there is no real danger. However, if radon is allowed to seep into homes and buildings through cracks and holes in the foundations and walls, the concentration can build up to much higher levels, at which point research suggests there is a reason for concern.

The average indoor radon concentration is about 1.3 pCi/l. Radon concentrations in a home can very depending on several factors including; house design, soil conditions, local geology, and the weather, such as high or low atmospheric pressures, and warm or cold climate. For example, indoor radon levels increase substantially during the winter months. As indoor temperatures increase relative to the outside temperatures, a thermal effect occurs. The rising warm air within a building is displaced by cold denser outside air, some of which seeps in through the foundation cracks, vents, and holes from the underlying soils.

Furthermore, exhaust fans inside the house can create a lower (negative) pressure inside the home relative to the surrounding soil and air, and radon can actually be drawn into the building.