Frequently Asked Questions

Radon FAQs

Radon Frequently Asked Questions

What is radon and where does it come from?

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium in soil. It is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It travels up through the soil and enters buildings through openings in the foundation of a building such as cracks, joints, sump pits, utility penetrations, and crawl spaces.

If the pressure of air and gas below the foundation is greater than the air pressure inside, the gas will be pushed upward through the foundation slab. Atmospheric conditions and the temperature difference between the inside and outside of the house can create a “chimney effect” where air rising up through the building pulls the gas upwards.

Radon also may be found in well water. Water with very high radon concentrations may contribute to the radon level in the house. The gas escapes from water when it comes in contact with air via the shower, a washing machine, or faucet.

What are the health concerns related to radon?

Radon has been undeniably linked to an increased lung cancer risk. According to the US Surgeon General, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer following smoking. It is estimated that approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States are related to radon. Smokers who are exposed to radon are at especially high risk. The danger comes from the by-products of radon decay. These tiny radioactive particles enter the lungs through breathing and can damage lung tissue leading to the development of cancerous tumors.

Is any level of radon “acceptable”?

Radon is a carcinogen and no level can be considered 100% safe. However, it is a naturally occurring gas and cannot be completely eliminated. The average outdoor radon level is approximately 0.4 PCi/L (picocuries/liter) of air.

Health experts agree that all homes should be tested for radon. The radon level of 4.0 pCi/L has been established as the action level for mitigation. This is based on the research and recommendations of health authorities such as the US Surgeon General, the American Lung Association, The Centers for Disease Control, and the US EPA.

How often is radon a problem in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, it is estimated that approximately 40% of all homes have elevated radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L. Because most people spend the majority of their time at home, residential radon levels are a serious health concern. You can learn the average radon level that has been reported to the PA Department of Environmental Protection for your area by entering your zip code here. However, you cannot assume your radon level based on those in the surrounding area. The only way to know if you are exposed to radon is to test your home.

Does the radon level in my home fluctuate?

The radon level in a home may fluctuate. Weather and temperature have a strong influence on the amount of radon that is being pulled into a home at any given time. It can vary hour-by-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Radon levels tend to be highest in winter when your home is sealed against the weather and the temperature variations between the interior and exterior of the house are greatest. This makes winter a good time for testing your home to ensure a safe level year round.

If you have installed a radon monitor in your home, you should not be alarmed if it occasionally registers above 4.0 pCi/L. Make sure your monitor is set to average radon levels to give a true indication of your overall radon exposure.

How do I determine my radon level?

The only way to know the radon level in your home is to conduct a radon test. An easy and affordable do-it-yourself radon test is a reliable indicator of the radon in your home. These tests can be completed in 2 – 7 days. Read more about testing your home for radon here (our testing page).

You may elect to have a professional test your home for radon. If you choose to have a professional test, be sure to consult with the PA Department of Environmental Protection for a list of certified radon testers.

What factors are involved in determining the best radon system for my home?

Radon mitigation is not “one size fits all”. Several factors must be considered in specifying the right system for a home. In addition to the current radon level, you will need to provide us with some information specific to your house. When you contact us for a radon system quote, the sales representative will ask you the size and age of the house, details about the foundation (basement or slab, concrete block, poured cement, or stone construction) and whether you have a sump pit, French drain, or exposed-soil crawl space. You will also be asked about any additions to the original structure. In most cases, this information will allow us to make an accurate assessment of your radon mitigation needs and give you an accurate quote on the appropriate system over the phone. However, our experienced sales staff can recognize when a home needs on site assessment, and will recommend we make a pre-mitigation site visit in these cases.

How much should I expect to pay for a radon mitigation system?

The price for mitigation is dependent on the system that is specified for your home. The variable mentioned above will determine the cost of the system. On average, you should expect a radon system to cost between $800 and $1,200. Very old or very large homes, homes with extreme radon levels, and homes with multiple additions can be very difficult to mitigate and may be more costly.

I have a passive radon system in my home. Why is my radon level still above 4.0 pCi/L and what can be done?

Many new homes are built to be radon resistant with a passive radon system. A passive system is radon piping that runs from a radon collection pit below the foundation, up through the house and out through the roof. These systems depend on the warming influence of the air in the home pulling air (and radon gas) from below the foundation and venting it above the house.

In many cases, these systems are insufficient to remove the amount of radon that is accumulating below the foundation. They depend on the soil below the foundation to be a loose enough aggregate that air and gas can move freely below the full foundation.

When a passive system is inadequate, the system can be easily and affordably activated. A radon technician will open the system and inspect the pit below the house to ensure that it has a sufficient collection chamber. He will then mount a radon fan in the attic of the home to create a vacuum to pull the radon from below the foundation. In some cases (where radon levels are high) it may be necessary to install a second collection point in order to create enough negative pressure below the foundation.

Radon resistant systems work in situations where radon levels are low and where the soil below the foundation allows for air and gas to flow freely. The existence of a passive system in a home does not guarantee safe radon levels. It is very important that homes with passive radon systems be tested and it is recommended that they be retested with regularity (every two years).

Selling your Home?

Many real estate transactions depend on no or low radon in homes. A buyer may not be willing to purchase a home with a high radon level if no action has been taken to reduce it.

Radon levels can be very different, even among houses in close proximity to each other.

For a free estimate call 1-800-No-Radon

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