Radon Mitigation Systems: Is Your Home Safe?

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What every homeowner needs to know about radon mitigation systems.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why do I care about radon mitigation systems?” don’t worry: you’re not alone. A lot of homeowners focus on things like electrical safety and protection from fires and carbon monoxide. Few give a second thought to radon, and they pay dearly for it.

First Things First: What IS Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas found in the earth’s crust. It seeps up from below, poisoning the air you breathe. But you’d never know it.

Colorless and odorless, it’s difficult to detect without special equipment. Radon gas is a byproduct of uranium, occurring when the element begins to decay naturally. This gas eventually works its way to the surface, poisoning the air around you.

Over time, this exposure can lead to lung cancer. In fact, long-term radon exposure was the reason attributed to over 21,000 deaths just last year. It is the second deadliest contributor, behind smoking, and the most lethal contributor amongst non-smokers.

Where Do You Find Radon?

Honestly? It’s everywhere. But your greatest points of exposure happen in places where the air fails to circulate, allowing gases to accumulate.

In other words, your greatest exposure risk is at home. Homes in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin may be at the greatest risk, but not living in those states doesn’t mean you are safe.

Old or new, airtight or breezy, it doesn’t make a difference. You and your family could be in danger. In fact, the EPA recommends all homes get tested for air quality, regardless of whether or not you live in a “radon zone.”

The reason they make this recommendation is that the pathways the gas travels along can differ greatly depending on soil composition and air pressure. Anywhere there’s even a tiny bit of airspace creates a potential path for radon to escape, and it may not be strictly vertical. Once it reaches the surface, the air pressure differential between your home’s interior and the outside creates a vacuum effect, sucking the radon inside your home.

But My Home’s Airtight. How Does Radon Get In?

While your home may be snug and well insulated, that doesn’t mean it’s completely sealed. Gas can get in through any number spaces, including:

  • Cracks in your slab
  • Walls resting on hollow-block foundations
  • Cracks in your concrete blocks
  • Joints where your walls meet the floor
  • Exposed soil in crawlspaces
  • Areas where pipes and plumbing enter the home from the outside
  • Porous building materials such as crushed rock, brick, and concrete
  • Wells built to bring water onto your property

You’ll find radon levels highest in the places where it enters the home. And generally, these tend to be on the lower levels. The air dilutes and carries the gas throughout the home as it moves upward from the point of entry.

Why is this important? Well, if your home tests negative for radon on the third floor that doesn’t necessarily mean your home is radon-free. In fact, to conduct the test properly, you’ll need to account for many factors, including location and time of year.

Identifying the entry points is part of the battle, but it’s still not enough.

Radon Protection: What You Need to Do to Protect Your Loved Ones

It boils down to three easy steps:

  1. Get tested. You can purchase an at-home test kit and measure indoor radon levels. Be sure and read the instructions to ensure you administer the test properly.
  2. Plug the leaks. Closing off the entry points where the gas seeps into your home is a crucial step. While you may not be able to close all of them, every little bit helps.
  3. Install a radon fan. These fans are specifically designed to prevent radon accumulation from reaching life-threatening levels. It uses the same pressure principle that draws radon into your home. But instead of pulling it inside, the fan pulls the radon up and vents it out through a pipe away from your home. S&P is the world’s leading producer of radon fans and air movement products.

But how can you determine what’s “safe” and when it’s time to install a fan?

Talk with a Radon Specialist

A trained HVAC professional will be able to steer you in the right direction. They can assist with testing, as well as advise you on the installation of a fan. However, you are an integral part of the process. Here are a few things you’ll need to ask to ensure your setup is the best choice for your home and budget:

  1. How high are my radon levels? The answer to this will be the results of your test kit.
  2. What is the difference between short and long-term test results? Short-term results are usually considered the first test administered in your home. Long-term results are the accumulated testing information across months (even years).
  3. Do my radon levels require monitoring, or should we take action immediately? Sometimes results are on the fence. In the case of short-term results, it may be best to monitor the situation for a while. Once you have a few more test results, you can determine if installing a fan is right for you.
  4. Where should I place my fan? There are two options: indoors and outdoors. The best placement can depend on a variety of factors including:
    1. Presence of a basement or crawlspace
    2. Your local climate’s temperature extremes
    3. Your property location
    4. Access to electricity

Ok…Now What?

You’re now educated and aware of the problem, so the next step is testing. Based on the outcome of those results, you can find a professional to help you determine if a radon fan is right for you.

EP Sales maintains a large inventory of Thermolec and Summeraire products and parts to service the needs of our customers.