There’s an important conversation about radon you should be having as a homeowner. It isn’t like smoke, carbon monoxide, and other signs of troubled air quality in your home. That’s because radon isn’t linked with furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, air conditioners, or other systems in your home. Radon comes from the earth. While radon is natural, it has dangerous, deadly consequences that should put you on alert. Here’s a look at some fast facts about radon every homeowner needs to know!
How Do Homes Get Radon?
Radon gas is a radioactive gas that’s produced naturally when uranium found in rocks decays. It is a clear, odorless gas that cannot be detected based on the senses alone. You could live in a home with radon for decades without ever realizing that something is “off.”
Radon can exist anywhere. However, some areas have a higher concentration than others. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created an official Radon Zones Map categorizing regions of the country based on radon risks. Zone 1 (red) represents the highest potential for radon, Zone 2 (orange) represents moderate radon potential, and Zone 3 (yellow) represents the lowest potential for radon. Many residents of Delaware are surprised to learn that Delaware is a bit of a hotbed for radon activity. For example, local concentrations of granite rock and unconsolidated sediment give New Castle County the highest potential possible for elevated radon in homes.
What Are the Risks of Living in a Home With Radon?
Extended exposure in a home can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. In fact, radon exposure is the most common cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. According to the EPA, radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. It is currently unknown if exposure to it raises risks for other illnesses.
How Does Radon Enter Homes?
Elevated levels happen for many reasons. Typically, people are exposed when radon gas given off by rocks or soil enters homes and buildings through small cracks located in floors and walls. It also enters through foundation gaps, pipe gaps, wire gaps, pump gaps, and construction gaps. While radon levels are typically highest in a home’s basement or crawl space, any part of a home is at risk for exposure. That’s because everything from naturally derived building materials to granite can give off radon gas. In some cases, radon gas enters a home through the water supply. While radon isn’t actually “in” the water, it moves from the water to the air to be inhaled whenever water is pulled up from a well with high radon levels.
When Are Radon Levels Highest?
Radon levels tend to be higher in the winter months. However, this isn’t necessarily due to it being more abundant in the winter. People are simply more likely to get “concentrated” exposure during colder months because they are less likely to open doors and windows to create airflow and ventilation. In addition, something called the “thermal stack effect” happens in colder climates when a combination of snow and weatherproofing stop airflow.
What Radon Level Is Dangerous?
Most homes have some level of radon. However, at low levels, it isn’t considered harmful. In fact, it’s considered difficult to reduce radon levels below 2 pCi/L. Homes with levels of 4 pCi/L or higher are considered dangerous. If radon levels are past the hazardous threshold of 4 pCi/L, a homeowner will need to have a radon removal system installed. These inexpensive systems work by using pipes that run from the soil under the house through the roof to draw it away from living spaces with a fan. While there’s no way to eliminate naturally occurring radon on your property, you can direct it away from your home to reduce interior levels to safe levels.
Can the Radon Level in Your Home Change Over Time?
Absolutely! In fact, many people who purchased homes 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago may think that they’re in the clear because their homes tested with low levels back when they bought them. Radon levels fluctuate with time for a number of reasons. That means that the levels in your home today could be drastically different compared to the last time you tested. Here are some causes of newly raised radon levels:
- The earth and soil under your home may have changed with time.
- Small earthquakes may have exposed more rock in your local area.
- New home constructions may have shifted rocks and soil around in your area.
- Cold weather and wind pressure may have created soil changes.
- Cracks and shifting within your home’s structure may have allowed radon to seep into your living spaces.
Older homes are generally at higher risk for radon gas. However, many homes in new neighborhoods are also at risk due to the dramatic landscape changes happening around construction sites. It is a risk whenever rocks and soil are being churned to make room for new homes. People who spend a significant amount of time in the basement are at higher risk for developing lung cancer related to radon. The reason why is that your basement’s proximity to the soil causes radon gas to concentrate there. As a result, it’s critically important to have your home’s radon levels tested if you spend time in a home office, bedroom, gym, or playroom located in your basement. Finishing your basement won’t necessarily reduce your risk!
How Do You Test Your Home for Radon?
While radon is a serious problem, the process of testing for it couldn’t be simpler. A professional radon test can give you peace of mind over your home’s levels. If your levels come back too high, you’ll be able to start the process of having an affordable system installed for keeping it out of your home. Look for a testing company offering these qualities:
- Licensed, certified technicians.
- Experience with radon testing.
- Familiarity with radon trends in the local area.
- The ability to install a custom radon remediation system at your home.
- Fair pricing.
You don’t need a special reason to test for radon. If you’re in a high-radon area, it’s wise to have professional testing done every few years. Of course, it’s also wise to test for it whenever you’re thinking about buying a new home. While waiving inspections has become popular among buyers in recent years, the truth is that it’s important to have a home tested for radon as part of your home inspection. Most home inspectors don’t offer radon testing as part of the standard inspection process. You’ll need to bring in an experienced radon professional to help you get a reputable, solid report. The benefit of testing for radon before buying a home instead of waiting until after closing is that you may be able to get the current owner to cover the cost of installing a radon remediation system if the results come back high. Government agencies take radon very seriously. That means that the law is on your side when it comes to a radon dispute with a seller.
Book a Professional Radon Test in Delaware
Delaware Heating & Air Conditioning is every Delaware resident’s one-stop shop for a healthier, more comfortable home. Our services also extend to helping our clients make sure they have the safest, healthiest indoor air quality possible. That’s why we offer HVAC maintenance, filter installation, and ventilation services. It’s also why we offer radon testing. Don’t risk living in a home with unhealthy radon levels. Contact Delaware Heating & Air Conditioning today to get professional radon testing at your home!