Questions About Radon Mitigation
(a) at least ten feet off the ground,
(b) above the eave (not necessarily the edge) of the roof, and
(c) either ten feet away from, or two feet above, windows.
Also, if you have a pedestal style sump pump (the kind where the motor sits above the basement floor) it generally needs to be replaced so that the airtight seal can be maintained.
The tough homes are usually those with slightly elevated radon levels, frequently built on clay. There all the radon might be coming in from one fissure, and the tight clay might prevent our system vacuum from reaching it. We could take several tries and several suction points before finding the right location. We are very stubborn, and always win. More than 10,000 successful systems so far.)
Check out our 20 or 30 most recent test results using the window into Air Chek's database, and see how many times a value below 2 is listed. (Don't be scared off by the occasional high number; these are almost always pre-mitigation screening tests.)
Check out the credentials and track record of the Company making the promises. Some companies will simply walk away (and hopefully return your money) if they can’t fix your home. What happens if your home is one of the tough ones?
In some situations it simply may not be possible to get the radon levels much below 4 pCi/l. After all, that's why EPA chose 4 as the Action Level. They were required by law* to choose the lowest level that could be achieved on the vast majority of homes. They considered 2, and rejected it.
* Title III of the Toxic Substance Control Act, 15 USC 2665. Signed by President Reagan, by the way!
There's an obvious conflict of interest when the radon contractor determines the effectiveness of his own work. Because of this, the EPA requires the contractor to recommend a third-party test of some kind. Some states go further, allowing the contractor to do tests for his own purposes, but prohibiting him from reporting the results to anyone else.
Protech's mitigation systems always include a mail-in test kit. (AirChek brand, the same kit you could purchase from the county health department.) The user breaks the laboratory seal on the packet, conducts the test, mails it off and receives results directly from the lab to whatever address he may specify. We are hands-off through the entire process.
We know that time is important, so we have made special arrangements with AirChek for priority handling. Our website also has a window into their database; if you know your test kit number, you can see the result within about 12 hours after it reaches the lab.
Even where the contractor has guaranteed his system, a home seller still has an inherent interest in producing a low post-mitigation radon reading. Unavoidably, that also creates a conflict of interest with the buyers. Bottom line -- in a real estate transaction the buyers are better off doing the test themselves, when they are in control of the test conditions.
Please understand that (unlike many contractors) we are in fact EPA/NEHA-certified for radon testing, and also have the specific certification that allows using electronic monitors. We do offer such a test when the client needs a certified test report ASAP to support the closing or satisfy a relocation company. And we may also conduct a diagnostic test in those rare cases when we're not certain that the system will work the first time. However, in both those situations, we consider our test to be supplemental to the mail-in kit third party test.
Years ago, when turnaround times for mail-in kits were measured in weeks, our contracts always included a post-mitigation test performed with an electronic monitor. However, now that you can get results in a few days, mail-in kits are finally practical for real estate transactions, and our supplemental test is seldom needed.
Questions about Radon Testing
There's another reason, too. Basement air is the most stable, and if we know the radon level in the basement we can make a pretty good estimate of what it will be on upper floors. With a typical home and forced air heating, radon levels on the upper floors will be (very roughly) about 40% less than in the basement.
Surprisingly, we find that the second floor typically has more radon than the first; this is because the 'neutral pressure plane' is typically about halfway up the wall on the top floor. Below that level, the house tends to draw air in; above it the tendency is to exhale. Thus the basement is drawing in radon, the first floor is drawing fresh air, and the upper floor is receiving and expelling a mixture of the two.
By the way, if you let a skunk loose in your basement, you'd smell it throughout the house. Don't for a minute think that the radon is only in the basement.
We are frequently called in to pick up the pieces after the home buyer or seller has learned that the test was not done properly. Often the first inkling they may have is when they call us to fix a supposed radon problem, and we begin inquiring about the test or refer them to the State of Michigan Radon Office (1-800-RADON GAS).
The most common deficiencies or outright errors we find in real estate transactions are:
In cases where the test device does not produce a datatape with hourly readings, EPA protocols require that two detectors be employed. If you did not receive a datatape with your test report, you should see two radon readings and an average. Only one? Unfortunately, you paid for a radon test, but only got half a test. Do not take action based on this half-test.
Protocols require that the 'closed house conditions' be maintained for 12 hours before the test, and for at least a 48 hour test period. Competent professionals will use various methods to ensure that these conditions were achieved. Frequently we find that an inexperienced and uncertified tester didn't even inform the homeowners that this was expected.
Test devices are sometimes placed in inappropriate locations where they will give false readings -- sometimes high, sometimes low.
Some monitors are improperly calibrated or have calibrations grossly out of date.
We don't always know what to do when faced with one of these situations. Often the sellers, afraid of the deal falling through, will just accept an improperly run test and shell out the money to 'fix' what amounts to a non-problem.
If you are buying or selling a home and want to minimize your risk and hassle, you may wish to consider an UnTest instead of an inherently uncertain short term radon test.
Cost of an alpha track test kit is about $25 including lab fees. These are probably available from your county health department, and definitely from us. In either event, the lab sends the test report directly to you.
More importantly, a house is breathing (in at the bottom, out at the top) even when it's closed up. A typical home will have at least 15 air changes a day in normal operation, and perhaps 8-12 when completely closed up.
Bottom line -- the vast majority of the radon that's measured entered the house during the test or in the preceding 12 hours.