Cutting the cost of radon compliance
Detecting and Eliminating Radon Inexpensively
by Debra Karplus
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Your neighbor tells you that their house was recently tested for radon. An acceptable score is 4; their house tested at 12. They plan to sell their house soon and know that they'll legally be required to sign a radon disclosure statement. They opt to install a radon mitigation system. It makes you wonder if your home might have unacceptable radon levels and if you should test it. Should you be concerned about the possibility of radon in your home?
According to Radon.com, about 2/3 of houses have unacceptable radon levels. This informative website even has state-by-state maps of radon levels. You can see percentages in counties to get an overall idea of how at risk your area is for radon.
If you're wondering what radon actually is, think back to high school chemistry. Number 86 on the chemical table is Rn, which is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can, but doesn't necessarily, lead to lung cancer. Radon is a byproduct of the radioactive decay of uranium. Radon can come up through the ground in your basement or crawl space and ultimately creep upward into the main living areas of your home. It can invade old or new houses and can be in your neighbor's basement but not in yours. Radon will not damage your home, but approximately 20,000 cases of lung cancer have been linked to radon annually.
How do you test for radon?
Many local public health agencies have free radon testing kits for residents. If that's not available to you, for less than $25, you can buy a testing kit online or at one of the home improvement stores. The kit will tell you specifically where in your basement or crawl space to place the tester and for how long to have the most reliable and valid test results. There will be instructions where to mail the completed tester to receive results. If you are not such a do-it-yourselfer, hire a company such as a home inspector and have them perform the test for $150 or less. They will give you results within days, which measures ratio of number of radon particles per number of air particles. The higher your number over 4, the more radon found in your basement.
What should you do if you discover that your basement or crawl space has unacceptable radon levels?
If you are a smoker, you are probably much more likely to be at risk for lung cancer from that habit than you may ever be from unacceptable radon levels in a part of the house where you spend relatively little time. Even for non-smokers, the likelihood of lung cancer from radon may be somewhat small. Many people who have a basement that tests high for radon opt to simply ignore it.
A radon mitigation system is what you will need if you decide to address radon issues in your home. A system mainly involves sealing cracks in the basement floor and around the walls, and then installing a radon fan and pipes to blow radon out of the house. You can look online for instructions and fans at places like Home Depot, where those special fans are sold for $135 and up. The job may take up to a day for one person to install, with total cost for fan and other parts costing about $500 total.
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For approximately $1700, a company such as David Smith Radon in Central Illinois can install a system in a matter of hours by certified radon mitigators. Companies such as this can give you an estimate over the phone after asking specific questions about your basement or crawl space. You may be surprised to learn that a system instilled in a crawl can cost as much as about $2500, though, for only a few hundred dollars, you could install a 10 ml vapor barrier along your crawl space floor and significantly reduce the risk of radon.
In Illinois, legislation was passed a few years ago requiring new construction to have a radon mitigation system built in. Some other states may have the same, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Radon and radon mitigation systems are sometimes controversial. There are lay people and professionals that will tell you that the radon scare is just that, a scare. But if you plan to sell your house anytime soon, be prepared to deal with the possibility of radon mitigation.
Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.
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