Is your radon mitigation system working “right now?” Maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t. Have you done a radon test lately? Let’s focus on the words, right and now because not all radon mitigation systems work right and not all radon mitigation systems work now.You may be a person who made a good decision by choosing to have a radon mitigation system installed in your home to protect yourself, family and pets from dangerous radon gas exposure. You may have been lucky enough to move into a home that has already been through the remediation process. Or you may be considering installing a system at some future point in time. Make sure your radon mitigation system is installed right and works now.
What is the right way to install a radon mitigation system?
There are many variations of radon mitigation systems throughout the United States. Some are installed as exterior radon systems, some are routed as attic radon systems, radon systems that vent through the roof and others are installed during the construction of homes called, passive radon systems. The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists AARST/ANSI have been diligently working on creating the best and most modern radon standards. Some state and local jurisdictions have created their own radon codes and standards. These standards help make sure that consumers are getting proper radon mitigation systems no matter which routing method is used. Luckily, there are many radon contractors around the country who work very hard to install these systems in a way that is up to code and works properly. Unfortunately, just like in any industry, there are those who like to skirt the rules and install sub-standard systems.
4 key points to check if your radon mitigation system is working right:
#1 The number one and most important rule of understanding if your radon mitigation system is working right is to check your radon levels. Do a radon test and repeat additional tests at least every two years. Radon test kits are cheap! They are easy to use. You can order radon test kits online. Another option is an electronic radon monitor. Monitors will give you ongoing radon readings and some have built-in alarms to let you know if radon levels are spiking. We also recommend using certified radon measurement professionals, although you will have to pay for their services, they can provide you with a more detailed radon report and can often provide you with a radon mitigation system inspection. Any way you choose to test, if your levels are low throughout your home, that is your first indication that the system is doing its job. If you levels are high, you may need to contact the original installer or another professional to come out to make the system work right. Do not rely on the original radon test result or what someone told you it was. Do not assume that the system is keeping radon levels low, it could be a deadly mistake.
#2 Check the system monitor. Make it a habit to regularly check it. The majority of radon mitigation systems have what is called a manometer. Some systems have a indicator light or audible alarm. Whichever device you have, it should have instructions to help you understand how to interpret whether or not the system is on and running. If you don’t have a radon system monitor, you should have one installed so you can have a way to systematically check that the radon fan is running. Note: passive radon mitigation systems typically will not have a monitor because they do not have an active radon vent fan. Your best way to monitor your passive radon system is to do radon tests during the different seasons of the year or long term tests. If your radon levels are high, you can activate the passive radon system.
#3 Check the exhaust location. One of the most basic rules of installing radon mitigation systems is knowing where to locate the exhaust of the system. The vent should always exhaust at least ten feet above the ground or standing areas like decks or patios. The vent exhaust should be two feet higher than any window, door or other open into conditioned space that is less than ten feet away from it. Also, it needs to be far away from any mechanical intake like an evaporative cooler. This will prevent radon reentrainment. The levels can be extreme at the exhaust end of the pipe. You do not want that gas to be inhaled at breathable height or come back into the home or building. Remember, people often only test their basements, if the radon is coming in an upstairs window from the mitigation system, they may never know! Vent exhaust location is very important.
#4 Does the system impact your entire home? Check that the radon system designer did everything they could to make sure that the system is taking care of the entire footprint. If you have a multi-level home, crawlspace, addition or just a lot of square feet, a simple radon system with one pipe and a fan may not be the right system for your home. Usually in homes and buildings that have more than one footprint, a radon mitigation system composed of multiple suction points is required. Example: If you have a basement and an exposed soil crawlspace, the radon system will usually have a primary suction pipe that goes through the concrete floor of the basement and a secondary suction pipe that routes to the plastic vapor barrier in the crawlspace. This helps spread the suction of the system throughout the soil below the entire home. If you don’t have a plastic vapor barrier over the crawlspace, you should have one installed and depressurized! Do a radon test in multiple locations around your home and the basement, the room above the crawlspace or slab on grade if you have one. If the radon system wasn’t installed for the entire footprint, you could still be at risk for radon entry.
We have a useful radon mitigation system inspection sheet for homeowners:
Does your radon mitigation system work now?
This is one of the most overlooked issues in the radon mitigation industry. If you have a radon mitigation system, you must make sure it is still doing its job! Here is a situation that we as a radon contractor come across often:
Person calls us to come and see what is wrong with their radon mitigation system. They have had a radon mitigation system in their home for several years. They did a test and the radon levels are HIGH! and they are not happy. They say they were told that the radon levels were low by the original installer (inherent conflict of interest.) They can't remember who the original installer was or they were some fly-by-night outfit that is no longer in business or just refuse to service their work. Either way, the homeowner never re-tested for radon in all of these years they just assumed the system was working right. So who knows if they ever were protected from radon gas? We end up going out to find many flaws in the design. We fix the system, bring it up to code and make it look much nicer. We then remind the client how important it is to continuously monitor your radon levels or at least test for radon gas every two years.
Conclusion: If you have a radon mitigation system installed in your home, please don’t assume you are safe from radon gas. If you are a real-estate agent representing a home buyer or seller and you see a radon mitigation system, please check that it is working right. Radon mitigation systems are intended to prevent radon gas from entering the home. Radon is an invisible gas and the only way you can know if the system is working is the test for radon gas and thoroughly inspect that the system is working now.
*We recommend you find out what your local radon mitigation standards are and make sure your radon system is installed according to them. Remember, local codes may supercede national radon standards.