My new home came with a passive radon system. Isn’t that good enough? The short answer: no. The long one: even a perfectly constructed passive radon system will not necessarily reduce radon levels below the EPA’s action level of 4 pCi/l. This doesn’t mean your home wasn’t built well. It just means that the strength of the radon emanating from the ground into the house is stronger than your passive radon system.
What is a Passive Radon System?
Passive radon systems usually consist of a 3 or 4 inch PVC vent pipe that is sealed into the gravel layer under the basement slab or into a sealed sump cover which runs from the basement up through the home, into the attic and venting through the roof. The theory of a passive system is based on thermal stack effect, which causes a house to act as a vacuum on the soil due to temperature differences inside and outside the home.
Why isn’t my Passive Radon System Good Enough?
Radon is slightly heavier than air. Because of this, it generally won’t go up the vent pipe (which is a big component of your passive radon system) on its own. To draw the radon out of your home, you need to have a radon fan installed on the vent pipe inside of your attic in order to effectively reduce the radon levels in your home.
Sometimes in new construction, the passive radon system’s vent pipes are obstructed when they are set in the slab, rather than in the sump cover. It may be stuck too far into the dirt below the gravel, the gravel may be too compacted, the gravel is too small with too much dirt and sand in it are all things that make it difficult to create good air flow, or a vacuum, across the entire slab. When this happens, we have to re-configure the vent pipe to have a new slab penetration, creating enough open air space beneath it in order to be able to guarantee results.
What is the ideal setup for my Passive Radon System?
A passive radon system’s vent pipe should ideally be run through one of the combustion appliance chases (furnace or hot water heater) that run from the basement to the attic of a house. The heat inside these chases may create a vacuum in the vent pipe, but ONLY if the following conditions exist:
- The floor-to-wall joint and all other basement slab openings, such as sump crocks are completely sealed during construction, with a sealed vapor barrier under the concrete
- The vent pipe has no completely horizontal runs and minimal bends.
Even then, the passive systems cannot overcome high emanations of radon.
What is the best way to reduce levels of radon in my home?
Converting your passive radon system into an active radon mitigation system is the best way to reduce levels of radon in your home. So long as there is at east three feet of accessible, vertical vent pipe in the attic, we can convert your passive radon system into an active system. There are many other factors that determine the ease of an install, such as whether or not another contractor renders the vent pipe useless during the build process.
Even if you have a passive system in place, you should test your home A passive radon system does not guarantee you will have an acceptable level of radon in your home. The best way to find out if your radon levels have been sufficiently reduced is to have your home tested.
Do you have a passive radon system that needs work? Give us a call at 630-499-1492 today!
You think you have a radon problem, now what? The first thing you should do if you suspect a radon problem is to test your home. Your reading will tell you what your next steps should be.
Low Radon Level
Although the EPA states that “no level of radon is safe”, technically radon readings below 4.0 pCi/L are below their action limit. That means no remediation measures are necessary. However, as a property owner, you will want to retest every two years, or any time there are any structural changes to your property to ensure you do not have a new radon problem.
High Radon Level
What happens if monitoring turns up radon levels of 4 pCi/L or higher? The EPA advises that you begin by contacting your state radon office for names of qualified or state certified radon contractors in your area. The EPA recommends the use of radon remediation professionals because, “Lowering high radon levels requires technical knowledge and special skills. You should use a contractor who is trained to fix radon problems. A qualified contractor can study the radon problem in your home and help you pick the right method.”
Solving Radon Problems
While there are several radon reducing techniques that can be employed, the first step in any remediation plan is to seal all the cracks or gaps in a structures’ foundation. Cracks in concrete floors of slabs or basements must be sealed, as well as any cracks in basement walls. A good caulk, appropriate for concrete repairs, is used for this job. If the structure has a sump crock, the crock will need to be sealed and vented to the outside.
In some cases, where radon readings are relatively low, simply sealing the foundation and venting the sump crock will lower the radon levels to < 4 pCi/L. While these steps can lower radon concentrations below the action level, the EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to fix the problem because, “by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.”
There’s a variety of techniques that remediation contractors use to solve radon problems. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home, while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. The EPA recommends using a method that prevents the entry of radon into a home. Soil suction is one example of this technique. It prevents radon from entering a home by drawing radon from below the foundation and venting it through a pipe to the air above the house where it’s quickly diluted.
If you are ready to correct your radon problem, give Trinity a call: 630-499-1492. We have highly skilled, licensed radon professionals on staff to help you tackle your radon problem head on. We look forward to working with you.
You had a radon test done. It came back “high” at 5.0 pCi/L. What? What does that mean? That doesn’t exactly seem high. How is radon measured? Radon is measured in “pico-Curies per liter of air” abbreviated as pCi/L. The radon measurement gets its name from Madame Curie.
How is radon measured?
A single pCi/L is the equivalent to 2.2 radioactive explosions every minute within every liter of air. Again – what on earth does that mean? Think of a 1,000 square foot box. It’s 100 ft by 10 ft by 10 ft giving you a cubic volume of 10,000 ft. 10,000 cubic feet is about 283,168 liters. If this 1,000 square foot home had just 1 pCi/L it would mean that there are 622,969 explosions happening every minute of every day. Increase that to 4.0 pCi/L and there are almost 2.5 MILLION explosions each minute. If there was a way for people to see these explosions each time they occurred, there is no doubt that everyone with a radon issue would have it repaired.
What happens when radon is measured?
When radon is measured, it is similar to a Geiger counter. Every time a Geiger counter makes a “tick” sound, it represents one of those radioactive explosions. the more it ticks, the closer they are to the source of the radiation. Radon tests do the same thing by counting the number of these explosions over a period of time. Those explosions determine the amount of radon that is in your home.
If you don’t like the idea of millions of little explosions occurring in your home each and every day, you should have your home tested for radon. If you results come back high, it is important to have a radon mitigation system put in.
Trinity Radon helps reduce the amount of explosions with radon reduction systems. If radon measured high in your home, give us a call today: 630-499-1492.