I am not a big fan of the cold weather it reminds me of the winter days working outdoors, installing radon mitigation systems in Chicago years ago. I will never forget the infamous winter of “Chiberia.” But also, as I now reside in Salt Lake City, I do love to see the beautiful sight of some fresh Utah ski powder, except for when it’s time to shovel the driveway. Luckily, this winter I scored a snowblower from my father. Now some people are connoisseurs of food, or fine wine; my father on the other hand, he is a connoisseur of snowblowers! At any given point in time, he may have 3-5 of these machines in his garage ready to battle the forces of nature in his suburban tundra. In the heat of the summer, you may find him at your yard sale ready to purchase the next in his collection. Whether it’s a 2 stage, 3 stage, 4 stroke, or electric, my dad likes them all. When he generously gifted me one out of his collection the other night, he meticulously showed me how to close the choke, prime the bulb, and fire up the engine. He showed me how to engage the auger, and cut a perfectly straight line down the driveway. As I loaded it in my truck and was about to pull away, he reminded me not to forget how to mix the oil and gas for the two stroke engine.
I woke up this morning to a fresh blanket of snow. I got dressed and prepped the new toy to take care of the driveway. As I mixed the 50:1 ratio of oil and gas, I couldn't help but divert my attention again to another gas, like I always do, I start thinking about radon gas. I thought to myself; it’s time to write another article about how the cold weather has an impact on radon gas.
Radon in the winter, 3 things you need to know:
1 Cold weather in the winter affects radon levels.
- Cold weather increases the amount of warm air that is escaping from your house through vents or drafty windows. This escape of air causes a vacuum inside the home. If the air in your home is under negative pressure, radon gas can be pulled in from the soil below the foundation. Cracks in the concrete floors, foundations and sump pumps are typical radon entry points. This stack effect can be greater in the winter months resulting in more gas entering the home.
- Radon gas occurs naturally in the soil all over the world. It seeps through ground and eventually enters the atmosphere where it is diluted to a slight amount. Basically, radon is coming up through the soil all around us. Unfortunately, during the winter or rainy seasons, the ground around your home can become saturated with water and in some cases frozen. When this happens, it can block the flow of radon into the atmosphere and redirect it into your home in higher concentrations.
- During the winter months, most people keep their windows shut. They fire up the furnace and recirculate the same air throughout their home. Many homes have poor indoor air quality and higher radon levels because the home is closed up during winter months. In modern years, more homes are built to be energy efficient and more “tight.” This energy efficiency can help keep the house warmer but it also can trap the bad air inside.
2 Winter is a good time to test for radon gas.
- Winter is a good time to test for radon because you are, in-most cases, measuring the worst case scenario for your home. With the hatches battened down and the furnace running, you are creating a scenario that can cause radon levels to be higher. You should know what these levels are under these conditions.
- Most people, who live in cold climates are exposing themselves to more indoor air, simply because they are spending less time in the outdoors. During these months people breathe more indoor air which can contain radon gas. It is good to know what those levels are.
NOTE: Remember that you shouldn’t fear testing for radon gas. Every radon problem can be fixed with a properly installed radon mitigation system. The cost of a radon mitigation system isn’t very expensive, especially when compared to other household purchases.
3 You can save money on radon services during the winter.
- January is National Radon Awareness month in the United States. If you have never checked your home for radon, consider buying a do-it-yourself radon test kit. They are often less expensive in January because of the awareness month. State or local governments and health departments often sell or give out free test kits. Online radon test kit providers often offer discounts during the awareness month. Radon kits are easy to use, simply place it in your home for usually 3-7 days and send it off to the lab for analysis. . If you have tested for radon levels before, you should also know that radon levels need to be remeasured at least every two years. As described in this article, the seasons can have an affect on the gas. You may have received a low result in previous tests during the warmer months, but unknowingly may have higher levels during the winter. It’s a good idea to test during different seasons.
- You can save money on radon mitigation systems in the winter. As the housing and construction market slows down during the colder months, many radon mitigation contractors are not as busy as they are in the warmer times of the year. This can be an opportunity to get the best deal on a radon mitigation system installation simply due to supply and demand. If you want to save money on your radon system installation, I would recommend getting it done during the winter months.
NOTE: If you have a radon mitigation system already installed, you should recheck the radon levels often to make sure the system is working. Radon test kits or even a continuous radon monitor should be a part of normal maintenance of a radon mitigation system. These systems can fail during winter months due to condensation freezing in the pipes, snow capping the vent stack or even tripped GFI outlet from a faulty set of Christmas lights. A simple radon test can let you know if the radon mitigation system is working properly. Read more about this in our article titled: Is your radon mitigation system working?
Now you have some more useful information about how the cold weather impacts radon gas. Share this information with friends and family to let them know the dangers of it and money saving opportunities. I just looked outside and the driveway is covered again! Guess I’ll go fire up the snowblower.