How to Decrease Radon Levels in Your House

As a homeowner, your most important job is ensuring your home provides a healthy and safe environment for your family. But an invisible threat like radon gas can sneak in undetected and put your household’s health at risk. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in soils and rocks. Thankfully, there are several effective methods to detect and reduce high radon levels in your home. Implementing radon reduction techniques can slash concentrations by up to 99%.

Where Does Radon Come From?

Radon forms from the radioactive breakdown of radium and uranium present in nearly all soil and rock. Outdoors, radon gets quickly diluted to harmless concentrations in the air. But inside an enclosed space, radon can accumulate to dangerous levels. It enters through direct contact with the ground. Radon gas seeps in through cracks and gaps in foundation floors and walls in contact with the earth. Common entry points include cracks in basement slabs, pores in concrete blocks, floor and wall joints, and openings around pipes, sumps, and wiring.

As indoor air gets exhausted through appliances, fires, HVAC systems and other outlets, it pulls new air in through foundation openings. This suction draws radon gas from the ground directly into living spaces. Once inside, radon can spread throughout the home through convection and gaps between floors and walls. Prolonged exposure to elevated radon greatly increases health risks like lung cancer over time. The good news is multiple proven methods exist to detect and lower high radon concentrations.

Testing Radon Levels in Your Home

The first step is testing radon levels in your home to see if mitigation is needed. Do-it-yourself radon test kits are readily available from hardware stores and online retailers for $15-$50. These include charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors, and continuous radon monitors. Place a test kit in the lowest livable level of your home and check results after the recommended period, typically 2-7 days. The EPA recommends fixing any radon concentrations at or above 4 pCi/L.

If elevated levels are detected, contact a certified radon mitigation professional to identify the best system specific to your home’s needs. Getting annual radon testing ensures levels remain safe for your family, especially if you have made any renovations or changes to the foundation and sealing. Monitor levels closely if you have young children or smokers at home who face greater radon risks.

Installing a Radon Mitigation System

The most reliable way to decrease high radon levels is installing an active sub-slab depressurization system, also called radon suction. A 3-4 inch PVC pipe gets inserted through your foundation slab into the ground below. A powerful fan mounts to the top of the pipe to actively draw radon gas from beneath your home before it can enter through cracks and openings. The radon gets vented through the pipe to the outdoors where it is quickly diluted.

This system maintains lower air pressure under the foundation to prevent radon from accumulating inside living spaces. The fan runs continuously with minimal electricity costs. Careful sealing around the pipe penetration is crucial. Professional installation is strongly advised over DIY radon mitigation. An effective system can slash radon levels by up to 99% for around $1200-$2500.

Sealing Foundation Cracks and Openings

Another priority is thoroughly sealing any potential radon entry points such as cracks in concrete slabs and walls, gaps around piping, wiring penetrations, sump pits, joints, and crawl space covers. Use caulks, expandable foam sealants, and weatherproofing materials to seal openings. Ensure basement floors and walls have no cracks or hollow channels for radon to migrate through. Seal any openings around HVAC, water, electrical, ventilation, and gas lines running from the ground into occupied areas. Reduce places for radon to sneak in.

Increasing Under-Floor Ventilation

Improving air circulation below concrete slab floors and crawlspaces helps redirect radon before it can rise inside. Install vent pipes through slabs or foundation walls. Place gravel and plastic sheeting under slabs along with passive radon vents to allow airflow. Adding powered radon fans accelerates under-floor ventilation. Moving air dilutes and vents radon from below before it gets sucked into living spaces above. Work with a contractor to plan optimal under-floor venting.

Radon Sump System
A radon sump similar to perimeter drainage systems uses a sump pit and buried perforated piping to drain radon from under the foundation. A pump or passive venting redirects it outside. Radon entering the groundwater is drawn down into the sump pit, then expelled before reaching the home. Careful sump venting away from windows or HVAC intakes is vital. Professional guidance ensures proper radon sump placement and ventilation.

Increasing Indoor Ventilation
Improving general indoor air quality helps dilute any radon. Open windows when possible, run bathroom and kitchen fans more, and operate HVAC systems to increase air exchange and ventilation. Avoid excessive weatherizing which could trap radon inside. Bring in fresh outdoor air while expelling indoor air containing radon. Ventilating upper floors pulls more radon up and out of the home before it spreads.

Structural Sealing
Assess any hollow wall cavities, dirt floors in crawl spaces, unfinished basements, loose fittings, gaps around plumbing lines and wiring, and cracks between foundation walls and floors. Use concrete, caulk, foam sealant and other building materials to completely seal any openings, cracks or porous areas radon could penetrate. Ensure radon has no paths between the ground and interior living spaces.

Crawl Space Encapsulation
Enclosing exposed dirt, gravel or earthen crawl space floors with durable plastic sheeting helps form a protective barrier against radon. Seal seams and perimeter edges with caulk and tape. Make sure to include passive or powered crawl space vents to avoid moisture buildup underneath. Plastic sheeting prevents radon release from the ground itself.

Test Regularly to Verify
Check radon levels a minimum of every 2 years to confirm mitigation efforts are keeping your family safe. Re-test after major home renovations or foundation work which could alter radon entry risks. Consider an automatic radon detection system for continual monitoring. If levels ever exceed 4 pCi/L, contact a certified radon professional immediately to strengthen mitigation. Don’t let unseen radon jeopardize your household’s health.

With the right detection testing and a combination of these radon reduction techniques, you can successfully decrease radon in your home. Protect your family’s wellbeing by addressing this invisible home health hazard as soon as possible.

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