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Old 08-30-2013, 12:18 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, co
1 posts, read 2,705 times
Reputation: 10

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Radon Rears it's Ugly (yet Invisible) Head



Before moving to Colorado Springs, I spent years working in the Radon Remediation field in Connecticut. During that time I worked with hundreds of prospective home buyers who were interested in properties that tested high in Radon during a home inspection. We had a 100% success rate in solving Radon problems in all homes we mitigated. We could mitigate new homes, old homes, big homes and small homes. We mitigated everything from Mobile Homes, to Bomb Shelters. But the biggest problems always occurred when we quoted work during Real estate transactions. Sellers were defensive, and buyers were anxious. But in the end we were always able to defuse the tensions by simply explaining the issues and how easy and inexpensive it was to solve the problem. I don't think most people understand how common high Radon level are in homes. Well, I'm going to tell you the same thing I told tell them:
***RADON SHOULD NEVER BE THE REASON YOU WALK AWAY FROM YOUR DREAM HOME!***


What I'm going to do today is explain to you what Radon is, how it can be remediated, and provide some statistics from the EPA to put everything in perspective. I'm going to try to keep everything clear and easy to understand without all that tech mumbo jumbo. There will be a lot of information, so I'll sum up the major points at the end. I'm going to scare you first, but please bare with me, it gets better and by the end you'll be informed and reassured. So here we go...


Quick Facts:
[LIST=1][*]Every home will have some amount of Radon, even if it is below the EPA recommended level of remediation.[*]1 out of 15 homes in the United States will test high for Radon and need remediation.[*]Radon is easily & inexpensively controlled with a simple system that remains unobtrusive to the day-to-day enjoyment of your new home. [*]A home with a Radon system installed can be safer home than the average home that doesn't need a Radon system.[/LIST]

Radon is an odorless, Tasteless, colorless, invisible, radioactive gas that comes from the decay of Uranium and Radium found 'salt and peppered' in rock and bedrock buried beneath the soil on which we build our houses. When the Uranium and radium decay, it naturally produces the element Radon which exists in a gaseous form. This radon gas naturally works it's way upwards to the surface, moving through the tiny gaps between each grain of sand until it reached the surface and harmlessly disperses into the atmosphere. If you Google Earths atmosphere, you'll discover that the air we breath naturally contains approximately 0.0000000000000000001% radon. When we build our home in an area where these small pocket of Uranium ad radium are found, Radon becomes trapped in our house by the walls and roof.

HOW RADON BUILDS UP IN YOUR HOME.

We build our houses so very tight these days trying to increase the efficiency of our heating and cooling systems. We insulate, we caulk the air gaps to keep out water and moisture. The furnace and other utilities that heat and cool our homes, create a negative pressure in the house, most commonly in the basement. What I mean by negative pressure is this: A lower pressure as compared to what is normal for our area. Our utilities consumes air to run, sucking it from the basement creating negative pressure. The removal of this air isn't something we notice, but in the world of gas, it's like a giant vacuum.

Beneath our homes, the Radon gas is working its way to the surface, moving from higher concentration to lower concentration, (or you could say from higher pressure to lower pressure). When Radon gas is working its way to the surface and our home is positioned above it, the Radon gas becomes trapped by the concrete floor and footers that support our houses. Unfortunately, concrete is porous, and believe it or not, Radon gas can slowly come up directly through the concrete floor. And if the floor has any cracks, expansion joints, or any other openings to the soil below, Radon gas can even more easily find it's way into our homes. The negative pressure in the basement pulls that gas into the basement where it builds up into potentially dangerous concentrations.

From the basement the radon slowly works its way up to the first floor, then the second floor, eventually into the attic space and our through the roof and vents. Obviously, opened door and windows allow the Radon gas to escape as well, but who among is has doors opened constantly all year round. For this reason is most houses radon level are usually higher in the winter. (Also, the ground outside freezes and makes it harder for Radon to dissipate naturally and increases the chances of radon entering into nearby homes.

In most homes the Radon level will settle into a state of equilibrium, what I mean by that is that the concentration will reach point where, due to your home's specific construction, it won't rise any higher under normal conditions. Typically, whatever that level of concentration is in the basement, the equilibrium level in the first floor will be roughly half that amount. The level on the second floor will be roughly half the level in the first floor, and so forth. As I mentioned before there will be some seasonal changes in these levels, winter likely being a little higher than the summer. (not counting the impact of open doors and windows).

(see Below picture showing how Radon can enter into the home. NOTE: This picture shows how Radon can enter your home thru Well water. I'l discuss radon in Well Water in my next Blog post.

http://www.pikes-peak-broker.com/img...%20entry_1.png

UNDERSTANDING YOUR RISK.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (the number one cause if you discount smoking). Lung cancer has an 85% mortality rate. The means that 85% of all people who get lung cancer will die from it, although medical treatment and remission can extend life for many years after diagnosis. When you breathe in air containing elevated levels of Radon, a certain percentage of it can decay in your lungs. When Radon gas decays, the decay process gives of radiation in the form of Alpha particles. You can think of Alpha particles as sub-atomic bullets that shoot off randomly in your lungs. If one of those bullets strike one the nuclei of the cells in your lung tissue, it can cause cancer. I know this sounds scary. But Radon exposure is a lifetime cumulative exposure risk. What that means is that your risk is determined by how much you've been exposed to over your lifetime. You're at less risk being in a high Radon environment for 2 years then if you were in a much lower Radon level for 20 years. And no matter what the Radon level is inside your home, you're better off being in that high Radon level for your entire life than you would be for being a smoker for your whole life in a Radon-free environment.

Radon concentration is measured in Picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of concentration. The average Radon level in the air outside your home is 0.04 pCi/L The national average indoor concentration for Radon in residential properties is 1.3 pCi/L. The level at which the EPA recommends remediation is 4.0 pCi/L. There is no maximum possible indoor Radon levels.

(See the below Radon exposure risk charts for BOTH smokers and NON-smokers. Please note that this should potential risk for exposure over a LIFETIME, not s short period of a few years.)

http://www.pikes-peak-broker.com/img...n%20charts.png

RADON REMEDIATION.

The most common method of removing Radon from a home is thru the installation of an Active Sub-slab Depressurization (ASD) system. This is a length of PVC or ABS pipe that run from a point beneath the concrete slab in your basement to a point above the roofline of the home. The pipe is routed discreetly either thru interior walls, closets, or a garage. If no interior path is possible, the pipe can be run up the exterior of the home in the least visible location. On this pipe is an Radon Fan which runs constantly, creating vacuum in the pipe. This suction acts like a straw and draws the radon gases up the pipe and ejects them harmlessly into the atmosphere. One of the side-effects of an ASD system is that the system will remove a large amount of humid moist air from beneath your home, often drying out the basement, reducing that familiar musty basement smell caused by humidity and making the basement all around more comfortable.

(See below Diagram of an ASD system)
http://www.pikes-peak-broker.com/img...%20diagram.png

These system are incredibly effective and reliable. Most radon fans can operate maintenance-free for decades, ensuring controlled, low radon levels in the home. The goal of these systems is to reduce radon levels below the 4.0 pCi/L action level. Once installed, a Radon system should be tested by an independent testing company. A successful radon system should also be re-tested every 2 years. Most Radon systems will reduce Radon levels in the home a point which is LOWER than the national Average Radon level of a home that doesn't even need a Radon system.

As a knowledgeable former Radon remediation expert, I wouldn't hesitate buying a Home with a Radon issue because I know how easy and inexpensive it is to install a Radon system. I also know that once installed, I'll enjoy a safer more comfortable home than I might have with another home that tested lower for Radon levels and didn't need a system.

JUST TO SUM IT ALL UP.[LIST=1][*]RADON SHOULD NEVER BE THE REASON YOU PASS UP ON BUYING YOUR DREAM HOME.[*]Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless, colorless, invisible Radioactive gas found naturally all over the world.[*]Exposure to high levels of Radon over a lifetime is the second-leading cause of Lung Cancer (The first, after smoking)[*]1 out of 15 homes in the United States will test high for Radon Gas, above the 4.0 pCi/L action level as determined by the EPA[*]A Radon system is simple, inexpensive, and will reliably control Radon levels in your new home for many years, maintenance-free. [/LIST]
I hope everyone found this information helpful and easy to understand. If anything is unclear please let me know and I'll revise as needed. I'm passionate about the need to test for Radon in all Real Estate transactions. I think the biggest stumbling block that radon causes when a house goes under contract is the lack of clear information about Radon. Because it's invisible and impossible to see or feel, it can get ignored or minimized despite the proven health risks. We used to have saying when I was in the Radon Remediation Business.

"If Radon gas was purple an smelled like sewer gases, it would be just as dangerous but everyone would mitigate all the time." Don't ignore Radon, just fix it.


Addition Resources:

State of Colorado [URL="http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDPHE-HM/CBON/1251617274212"]Radon Outreach page[/URL]
Environmental Protection Agency's[URL="http://www.epa.gov/radon/"] Radon Homepage[/URL]
EPA's [URL="http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/hmbyguid.html"]Home Buyers and Sellers Guide to radon[/URL]
EPA's [URL="http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/citguide.html"]The Citizen's Guide to Radon[/URL]
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Old 08-30-2013, 01:17 PM
 
20,378 posts, read 37,934,905 times
Reputation: 18194
IIRC some friends of ours had radon remediation on a home in Pine Creek and it cost only a few thousand dollars, which IMO isn't a big deal.
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:03 AM
 
42 posts, read 48,199 times
Reputation: 19
So some people live in houses without radon mitigation?
I would also think builders would include that into their houses.
Maybe I am missing something.
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Old 09-01-2013, 11:27 AM
Status: "Planning for the future." (set 11 days ago)
 
Location: Just south of Denver since 1989
10,695 posts, read 28,592,320 times
Reputation: 6871
Some people do not know they need to mitigate because they do not test for radon when they buy.
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Old 09-01-2013, 12:31 PM
 
Location: OH>IL>CO>CT
4,785 posts, read 7,582,080 times
Reputation: 6427
Default Not required by law

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1duder View Post
So some people live in houses without radon mitigation?
I would also think builders would include that into their houses.
Maybe I am missing something.
As it is not required by law ( code, statute, whatever)(like carbon monoxide detectors are required by state law in Colo.), the need for mitigation is mostly, IMHO, a scare tactic by the buyer's inspector, and buyer's agent, to get the seller to pay for it. Then when buyer may need to sell house later, it's already done, paid for by previous owner. The same thing with aluminum wiring.
BTDT, on the wrong end of the deal
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Old 09-01-2013, 05:49 PM
Status: "Planning for the future." (set 11 days ago)
 
Location: Just south of Denver since 1989
10,695 posts, read 28,592,320 times
Reputation: 6871
Read about it yourself. Radon Home Page | Indoor Air | US Environmental Protection Agency

Radon and Real Estate | Radon | US Environmental Protection Agency.

I don't think for a minute it's a scare or negotiation tactic.
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Old 09-15-2013, 02:04 PM
 
313 posts, read 362,343 times
Reputation: 563
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1duder View Post
So some people live in houses without radon mitigation?
I would also think builders would include that into their houses.
Maybe I am missing something.
We built our house last year in Colorado Springs and a radon mitigation system was included by Richmond American Homes; it is part of the basic package included in all the homes they build in the area. Some of my neighbours who used other builders, however, did not have mitigation systems installed by their builders and ended up having to pay to have one installed later so I think it varies by builder.
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Old 09-16-2013, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Colorado
2,483 posts, read 3,369,345 times
Reputation: 2668
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
IIRC some friends of ours had radon remediation on a home in Pine Creek and it cost only a few thousand dollars, which IMO isn't a big deal.
I got mine done for about a thousand a few years ago. Johnson Radon Control.

In most cases they would just be installing a mitigation fan. So if the estimate is for thousandS, make sure you know what that will include.
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Old 09-16-2013, 12:06 PM
 
Location: Colorado
2,483 posts, read 3,369,345 times
Reputation: 2668
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Fitzgerald View Post
NOTE: This picture shows how Radon can enter your home thru Well water.
Radon Entry Diagram
Yeah but what if my house is bigger than just one room with nothing but a bathtub in it?
Just kidding, nice diagrams and explanations.
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