If you’re worried about radon exposure at home and you want to know how to install radon mitigation system in your home, then this guide is exactly what you need.
If you’ve never heard of radon gas, it’s likely because it hasn’t been a priority until quite recently. Despite its relatively low profile compared to other health issues, radon gas is the second biggest cause of lung cancer around the country after tobacco smoking. This makes it a killer that’s worth talking about.
What Is Radon Gas and Where Is it?
It’s important to understand right away that radon gas is naturally occurring. Its presence is not due to some modern human technology that has gotten out of hand. There’s good and bad news in this, though. Because it’s a natural gas, we’ve been living with it to greater or lesser degrees since time immemorial. The bad news is that too much exposure can result in damage to the lungs and cancer.
Radon gas doesn’t smell of anything. It has no taste and can’t be seen with the naked eye. The soil contains lots of elements and some of them are actually potentially radioactive rare earth elements. Radon gas is formed when radium, a naturally occurring element in many soils, decays. As the radium element decays, it produces radon gas that easily escapes from the soil and into the air where it can be breathed in. The problem is that this radon gas is radioactive.
It really does sound as if it is a health problem that should have been taken more seriously but perhaps the fact that it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted has resulted in an attitude of “out of sight, out of mind.” In this sense, radon gas has been the stealthy killer.
Here’s another interesting fact: radon gas is pretty much everywhere around us. Its level really depends on the amount of radium in the local soil and how much of it is decaying. This tends to vary by geological area and country, with Australia having one of the lowest levels.
The Radon Gas Buildup
Given that it’s all over the place in the air around us, it makes sense to think that it’s not as much of a problem as many people make out. When radon gas is in open air, it doesn’t really pose that much of a threat to health because it simply dissipates. The real problem is when it builds up in basements, crawlspaces, and buildings. This is when radon gas levels can become a huge problem.
Detecting Radon Gas
If you happen to live in an area with moderate to high radon gas activity, it’s a good idea to test the air in your home if you have no mitigation system in place. Testing kits aren’t very expensive and can be placed around the home while you get on with living your daily life. After a while, these kits can be sent in for testing and the radon gas levels determined.
Dealing with Radon Gas
If you have radon gas levels that are dangerous over the long term, how do you deal with them? Fortunately, many new homes being built in high radon areas are also being built with mitigation systems in place or with slabs that allow for a mitigation system to be installed.
One of the issues is that many of these mitigation systems in new homes are passive systems. They may eliminate some of the radon gas particles but there is often not quite enough pressure to trap optimal amounts. This can lead to some particles escaping.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to install a new radon gas mitigation system. And what about if you have a home without a radon gas mitigation system at all? Older homes may need some extra work done on them to make them ready for a mitigation system but it’s important to understand that such a system can be installed anywhere.
How To Install Radon Mitigation System
If you’re skilled and have a relatively new home that either has a passive system in place or has been built to accept a mitigation system, it’s certainly possible to do it yourself. Here’s what you need to know:
- Test the Air Flow Underneath the Slab
Most modern homes are built on a concrete slab and this is ideal for the installation of a radon gas mitigation system. If there is good air flow underneath the existing slab, it makes it easier to trap and vent out any radon particles.
The problem is that sometimes there is insufficient air flow and soil issues that can create barriers to a fan-powered elimination system. It’s also important that the gap underneath the slab is ai-tight since this will determine how effective the mitigation system is. Think of it in simpler terms: if a vacuum cleaner sucks particles from an airtight space, it does so more effectively than if the space was not airtight.
- Seal the Slab Effectively
If the space underneath the slab is not airtight, it’s important to seal over any cracks or holes in the foundation, the floor, and the walls. This helps to create a vacuum so that the mitigation system can operate more effectively and trap more radon gas particles that are being released from the soil underneath the home.
- Install the Pipe
Radon gas mitigation systems are relatively simple in function and operation. As long as there is an airtight sub-slab area, they can do effective work.
Once the slab, the walls, and the foundation have been effectively sealed, it’s a good idea to dig out around ten gallons of soil from underneath the slab if space is tight. The purpose of this is to expose more of the soil so that the mitigation system can extract more radon particles and keep the area clear.
A PVC pipe can now be installed that runs from underneath the slab and up through the side of the home and to above the roof. This is where the radon gas particles will be vented and will then harmlessly dissipate in the air. Just remember to completely seal around the pipe to preserve the negative air pressure underneath the slab.
- Install the Included Manometer
Your radon gas mitigation system will have come with a small device called a manometer. This is inserted into the pipe and has a readout on it. This will tell you whether the system is operating correctly or not when the fan is turned on.
- Install the Fan
Once all of the PVC piping is firmly in place and everything is sealed, it’s time to install the fan. This is what will extract the radon gas particles from the soil and underneath the slab, draw them up through the pipe, and vent them into the air.
The fan itself is installed in the attic area of the home and is connected to the pipe after it has been cut in half. The power of the fan really is determined by how compact the surrounding soil is. More compact, dense soils will need a more powerful fan so that the radon gas can be extracted.
- Final Testing
It’s important to test how effectively the system is operating once it has been installed. It’s now time to turn on the fan and have a look at the manometer that is attached to the PVC pipe. If the reading is greater than the zero setting, then the system is operating and radon gas particles are being drawn up as expected.
If the reading is at zero on the manometer, there’s not enough negative pressure underneath the slab to ensure that the fan is drawing up the gas. In this case, it’s time to check the seals around the slab and test again. In almost all cases of failure, it’s a failure to seal properly that causes the zero reading.
If all else fails, it may be time to call on an expert company so that they can check the system and get it up and running.
Radon gas is all around us to varying degrees because it’s a naturally occurring substance. Given that lung cancers caused by damage from these radioactive particles often take years to grow to detectable levels, it’s no wonder that it has taken many years for this to appear on the radar of the building and construction industry.
Fortunately, the solution is a relatively simple one: the installation of a radon gas mitigation system. Some homeowners may know how to install radon mitigation system themselves and in many cases, this is a great way to save money.
Despite the obvious public health danger that radon gas creates, it’s important to maintain a balanced perspective on the issue. In a world that is experiencing unprecedented levels of warming and climate change, it’s easy to become panicked about radon gas.
The fact is that an easily installed mitigation system can eliminate all of the pertinent danger from homes and other buildings and remains the most effective method of dealing with radon gas. Whether you have a new or old home, it is possible to have such a system installed.