Radon resistant new construction (RRNC) is quickly becoming a hot topic for new homes and buildings. Radon resistant new construction techniques control radon gas entry through the installation of a passive radon mitigation system. When installed correctly by a licensed radon contractor, passive radon systems can help to prevent radon gas entry without the use of a radon vent fan. These systems are more economical for consumers as the cost to install is typically less than retrofit applications and compared to active radon systems the electrical and heat energy savings are great. Many states, municipalities, contractors and architects are adopting radon resistant new construction codes and policies that are the correct procedure.
As the demand for passive radon mitigation increases, there may be a hidden danger that makes these systems more deadly than not having a radon system at all.
Over the years, we have been called to activate passive radon mitigation systems in hundreds of homes. In most cases the homeowner is selling the home and the buyers performed a radon test during inspection. When radon levels come back high, we are called to activate the passive radon system by installing a radon vent fan. Many times we find that the homeowner is baffled by the fact that the radon levels came back high. They ask, "how are the levels high when I have a radon mitigation system?"
There are several radon resistant new construction facts to consider when asking this question.
- There is currently no national standard radon resistant new construction. Therefore many builders have no standard to pull from; leaving homes with improperly installed radon resistant systems.
- Passive radon systems are not known to reduce radon levels as well as active radon mitigation systems. In many cases, passive radon systems only reduce radon levels by 50% leaving the home with radon gas levels greater than the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L.
- Most passive radon systems are not installed by licensed or certified radon mitigation contractor. The plumber or the builder who does not specialize in radon mitigation installs them.
- Many passive radon mitigation systems don't work at all!
Time and time again we have arrived at homes to activate passive radon systems that were installed when the home was built. We find that proper RRNC techniques have not been followed. Many times we find incorrect PVC pipe size, unsealed cracks, improper pipe routes and worst of all the radon suction point has been capped underneath the slab by the concrete as it was poured. This is potentially more dangerous than not having a radon system at all. These unknowing homeowners were told that they have a "radon system" in their new home. They were left under the false assumption that the home is protected from radon and in many cases never test for radon gas to see if the system is working. Without the use of correct radon resistant new construction techniques, all that these homeowners have is an ineffective pipe in the basement labeled “radon system”. The homeowners may have been living and continued to live with dangerous levels of this cancer causing radon gas without even knowing it.
If you are building a new home:
- Educate yourself about the dangers of radon gas.
- Learn about the existing RRNC guidelines
- Ask your builder if they are RRNC educated
- Insist that a certified radon mitigation contractor installs the passive radon system.
- Document the system installation, take photos and ask questions.
- Make certain to test the home for radon gas after the build is complete.
- If radon levels are above the EPA recommendations activate the passive radon system with a radon fan and test again.
If you live in a home with a “passive radon mitigation system”
- Test for radon gas at least every two years.
- Inspect your foundation for new cracks/radon entry points and seal them.
- Call your local radon contractor to inspect the system design.
- Do not assume that you are protected from radon if you have never performed a radon test.
Passive radon mitigation is a great way to reduce radon gas if the system is installed correctly. They can be easily activated if radon levels remain high and are nicely hidden within the home. These systems may help reduce lung cancer risk for you and your family but always be certain that the passive system was installed correctly.