Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement Common Questions

 

How do I find out if I have Radon in my home?

The only way to determine radon levels in your home is to conduct a radon measurement test.

Can I conduct my own test?

Yes, there are two different tests that you can conduct yourself.

  • Short-Term Radon Test. A short-term test kit is the quickest way to conduct a test. These kits can stay in your home from two to 90 days, depending on the device type. Short-term testing requires your home to be under “closed-house conditions”, meaning all doors and windows must be closed during testing, other than normal comings and goings from the home.  However, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you what your year-long average radon level is, as radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season.
  • Long-Term Radon Test. A long-term test kit remains in your home for a minimum of 91 days, although testing can continue for a year. Long-term testing provides a more accurate reading of the radon levels within your home, especially if the home is tested up to a year. Results from a long-term test are more likely to reflect the variances in the radon level, as levels fluctuate from day to day, season to season, as well as the average “open-house conditions” that consists of the normal comings and goings from the home.
Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – Different radon measurement devices.

Where can I buy a short-term or long-term test?

EcoTech sells both the short-term and long-term tests kits, please visit our EcoTech Store for purchasing information. Radon test kits can also be purchased at most hardware stores and cost an average of $15-$35.

What if I’m in a real estate transaction?

If you are purchasing a home, most buyers and their agents, test the new home as part of the inspection period. A Certified Radon Measurement Professional should be hired to conduct the radon test. The third party tester will perform a two day test, the test will be placed in the lowest portion of the home (i.e. crawlspace or basement) and will be required to be under “closed-house conditions”.

Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – Technician setting a Continuous Radon Monitor (CRM) to measure and report the hourly increments of the radon levels within the home.

Radon Measurement Results

What is measured to determine if there is radon within the home?

To determine the amount of radon within the air, it is measured in “picocuries per liter of air” or pCi/L.  The gas itself is not measured directly, it is actually the radioactivity the radon produces that is measured.

What do the radon test results mean?

  • If the measurement reading reflects a 4.0 or lower pCi/L, you and your agent will receive a detailed report and no mitigation will be needed. Although, the EPA does recommend that you test, using a short-term or long-term test, every two years.
Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – This is a CRM report which shows 2.4 pCi/l, which is below the EPA Action Level

  • If the measurement reading reflects a 4.0 or higher pCi/L, you and your agent will receive a detailed report and a proposal for a radon mitigation system to lower the radon levels in the home.
Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – Extremely high CRM test, the overall average is 24.9, which is above the Action Level

I’m in a real estate transaction and I’ve scheduled my sewer scope for the same time as the radon test, is that okay?

EcoTech highly recommends that you DO NOT schedule the sewer scope and radon measurement at the same time.  If the two inspections are scheduled together, a 12 hour delay should be placed on the measurement device after the scope is completed. The sewer scope can be considered a disruption to the “closed house conditions” that are required during the radon test. Open sewer pipes, during a scope, can allow radon gases into a home. Thus, if a sewer scope is performed during a radon test, the exposed sewer can cause a spike in the test, reflecting in a false reading.

Radon Common Questions

Radon Common Questions

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and naturally occurring gas. Radon is produced by the radioactive decay of radium, which is found in numerous forms of soils and rocks, especially granite.

Why is Radon harmful?

When inhaled, the radioactive radon particles can damage the cells that line the lungs.

Where is Radon found?

Radon is present in nearly all air, usually at very low levels, and has been identified in all 50 states.

How does Radon enter buildings?

Radon gas enters a building directly from the soil, through the lowest level in the building that is in contact with the ground. Typical entry points of radon are cracks in solid foundations, construction joints, cracks in walls and gaps in suspended floors.

Radon Common Questions

Radon Common Questions – Different ways radon can enter a home.

Can’t I just open my windows to get rid of the Radon?

Yes, this would help eliminate the radon levels in your home. Yet, when opening all of the windows in your home to eliminate the radon level, you would then be opening yourself up to sky high energy costs with the loss of conditioned or heated air.

Radon Measurement Questions

How do I find out if I have Radon in my home?

The only way to determine radon levels in your home is to conduct a radon test.  For more information on radon testing, please see our Radon Measurement Common Questions page.

What if I’m in a real estate transaction?

If you are purchasing a home, most buyers and their agents, test the new home as part of the inspection period. A Certified Radon Measurement Professional should be hired to conduct the radon test. The third party tester will perform a two day test, the test will be placed in the lowest portion of the home (i.e. crawlspace or basement) and will be required to be under “closed-house conditions”.

What Radon level should I be concerned about?

The EPA recommends that action be taken to reduce radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or higher, and to consider lowering the radon to a level between 2.0 – 4.0 pCi/L. The EPA also recommends that you test your home every two years using a short-term or long-term test, to monitor radon levels.

Why does the EPA recommend 4.0 pCi/L and the World Health Organization recommends 2.7 pCi/L?

The EPA does recommend that homeowners should consider taking corrective action if their homes reflect radon levels between 2.0 and 4.0 pCi/L, since there is no safe level of radon exposure.  Radon measurement companies that have been certified are required to follow the EPA protocols, not the World Health Organizations.  Also, those companies that have been certified are mandated to observe all EPA protocols, if a company follows the WHO recommendations, they are in violation of their radon certification.

Removing radon from homes

How do I get rid of Radon from my home?

The method of reducing homes with high radon levels is through a process called Radon Mitigation. The most common and cost-effective mitigation system installed is called an active soil depressurization (ASD). The ASD system intercepts the radon before it enters the home from the soil and re-routes it into the atmosphere. An ASD system incorporates a suction pipe and an inline fan, creating a vacuum beneath the lowest level of the structure, intercepting and rerouting the Radon gases out of the home.  For more information on mitigation systems, please see our Radon Mitigation System Information page.

Radon Common Questions

Can’t I just seal cracks and other openings in and around the foundation to stop the radon from getting in?

The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to limit radon gases. Sealing alone has not demonstrated to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.

Is there anything specific I should be worried about when it comes to mitigation systems?

Yes, not all radon mitigation systems are created equal. Below are just a few reasons it is important to do your homework when installing a mitigation system.

  • The system that is installed does not address the whole house. It is important to think of where the fan will be placed, is it under a bedroom window, will there be a noise issue effecting everyday life.
  • Poorly constructed systems can increase utility bills by hundreds of dollars a year, with the release of air conditioned or heated air.
  • Back-drafting of combustion appliances and fireplaces can kill occupants of the home.
  • Not using licensed electricians for installation or pulling proper permits with the city.

Radon Common Questions

I’m going to be converting my basement into livable space, should I test before hand?

Yes, a radon test should be done before starting construction and after the project has been completed. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon mitigation system before or during renovations rather than afterwards.

I’m going to be sealing my home for energy efficiency, will that effect radon levels?

It can. Insulating and air sealing your home will reduce your carbon emission, save you money and energy. While achieving energy efficiency, you can also create an increase in radon due to a reduction in outdoor air entering the house. A radon test should be conducted before and after the weatherization improvements to ensure the home is safe from high levels of radon.

Both houses next to me have very little radon levels, doesn’t that mean mine does too?

Not necessarily. Radon levels can vary from home to home and cannot be based on someone else’s test. Homes which are next to each other can have different indoor radon levels. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The only way to find out your radon level is to test your home yourself.

Radon Common Questions

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems Questions

 

While addressing Radon Mitigation Systems, we have included a few common questions, along with a brief overview of the EPAs very informative Consumer’s Guide To Radon Reduction How to fix your home.   The link for the EPAs Consumer Guide is also included for you, for more of an in-depth read. EPA Consumer’s Guide To Radon Reduction How to fix your home.

I have high radon, can’t I take care of the problem myself?

The EPA recommends hiring a qualified radon mitigation contractor to lower the radon levels. Lowering radon levels requires specific technical knowledge and special skills. Without the proper equipment and technical knowledge, you could actually increase your radon levels or create other potential hazards and additional costs. If you still would like to complete the work yourself, contact Oregon Public Health for training.  Oregon Public Heath Radon Training Information

How can I find a contractor?

The EPA recommends using a certified radon mitigation contractor trained to fix radon issues. To find a licensed mitigation company in Oregon, click on the Oregon Public Health to find a list of licensed contractors. Oregon Public Heath Mitigation Licensed Contractors

What is a good way to determine a good contractor?

Do your homework and get multiple estimates and references. The EPA has an Evaluating and Comparing Contractors checklist that you can follow to evaluate and compare contractors.

Once you have compared and contrasted each proposal, the EPA suggests that you take into account what you will be getting for your money; a less expensive system may cost more to operate and maintain; a less expensive system may have less aesthetic appeal; a more expensive system may be best for your home; and, the quality of the building material will affect how long the system lasts.

The EPA also suggests that homeowners review each of the Contractors Proposals and Estimates.

Once you have decided on a contractor, the EPA suggests checking the Contractors Contract Language before any work starts.  The contract should match the original proposal, describe the exact work that will be completed prior and during the installation of the system, what the system consists of and how the system may operate. Many contractors provide a guarantee that the system will reach a negotiated radon level of 4.0 pCi/L or less.

What are the types of radon reduction techniques?

Contractors will analyze the following factors in selecting a radon mitigation systems for your home; how high the initial radon level is, the cost of installation and system operation, home size, and foundation type.

If your home has a basement or is Slab-on-Grade (concrete poured at ground level): In these homes, radon is usually reduced by Active Soil Depressurization System (ASD), this is the most common and usually the most reliable radon reduction method. This system creates a vacuum under the house to intercept radon before it enters the home. This is accomplished by inserting a suction pipe through the floor slab and into the soil underneath. A vent fan is connected to the suction pipe and draws the radon gas from below the home, the gas is then drawn up and dispersed to a discharge pipe and then vented above the home and into the outside air.

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Interior Sub-Slab System

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Two interior Sub-Slab systems.

 

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Exterior Sub-Slab System

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Installed Exterior Sub-Slab Mitigation System. The radon is vented above the roof line and the system has been designed to incorporate aesthetic features that correspond with the house.

If your home has a crawlspace: In these homes, the most effective method to reduce radon levels is through a sub-membrane suction. The sub-membrane involves covering the crawlspace floor (usually dirt) with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan are used to draw the radon from under the sheet and vent it to the outdoors.

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Sub-Membrane System

Photos below show the installation of a Sub-Membrane Radon Mitigation System 

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Technician coring hole for the piping to feed through the crawlspace to the exterior of the home.

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Interior shot from the crawlspace, where the hole for the radon piping will fee through. The black sheeting is a pre-existing vapor barrier.

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – High density sheeting covering the crawlspace floor.

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Interior view of the crawlspace, vent pipe and fan are used to draw the radon from underneath the high density sheeting and vent the radon gas to the outside.

Radon Mitigation Systems

Radon Mitigation Systems – Sub membrane sheeting with 4 inch pipe going to exterior of home.

 

Additional approaches to radon reduction: Besides the installation of a mitigation system, sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation will limit the flow of radon into your home. The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing along, as sealing by itself, has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.

Checking the Contractors Work

The EPA recommends that you Check the Contractors Work with a list of basic installation requirements that should be met for the radon reduction system in your home.

Maintaining and Living with a Radon Mitigation System

Occasional maintenance may be required with the radon mitigation system. If you have a fan powered system, you will need to monitor the warning device, to make sure the system is working correctly. Fans may last for five years or more, and then may need to be repaired or replaced. On average, manufacturer warranties for the fans do not exceed five years, so the cost to replace the fan varies based on labor and materials. It is also recommended that the home is retested every two years to ensure that the system is working properly and the radon levels remain low. The fan must run continuously for the system to work correctly, do not shut it off.