Radon gas is colorless, odorless, and seeps into homes from the ground through cracks and joints in the house. It’s also suspected of causing thousands of lung cancer deaths every year. Radon gas can be found anywhere in the country, and it’s not unusual for an inspection to detect levels of radon gas in a home in our area that exceed the EPA standard of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or less. In fact, the EPA estimates that one in 15 houses has elevated radon levels.
Most homes should have the radon level tested. Testing is easy and relatively inexpensive (about $100 or less). If a test shows a level of radon higher than 4 pCi/L, a radon mitigation system should be installed. Fortunately, this is a fairly simple fix and costs about the same as some other common home repairs.
A typical mitigation systems consists of a pipe that penetrates the ground beneath the house (either below the crawl space or basement) and is connected to a fan that runs 24 hours a day to disperse the radon gas that might otherwise build up to unsafe levels in your home. The pipe can run up through the roof of the house on the inside, but most likely the pipe will be run up the side of the house on an exterior wall. In the latter case, the pipe looks like a downspout from a gutter and is somewhat camouflaged to look like the rest of the exterior of the home.
Once a radon mitigation system has been installed, it’s important to retest the radon level to make sure the system is functioning properly. The fans have an average life span of about five years, so the system should also be checked periodically and the fan replaced when needed.
Sources: US Inspect and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.