Consumer s Guide To Radon Reduction. How to fix your home

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Consumer s Guide To Radon Reduction How to fix your home OVERVIEW Reduce Radon Levels In Your Home Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The Surgeon General
Consumer s Guide To Radon Reduction How to fix your home OVERVIEW Reduce Radon Levels In Your Home Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The Surgeon General and the EPA recommend testing for radon and reducing radon in homes that have high levels. Fix your home if your radon level is confirmed to be 4 picocuries per liter (pci/l) or higher. Radon levels less than 4 pci/l still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. Select A State Certified and/or Qualified Radon Mitigation Contractor Choose a qualified radon mitigation contractor to fix your home. Start by checking with your state radon office (see p. 17). Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or registered. You can also contact private radon proficiency programs for lists of privately certified radon professionals in your area. See page 4 for more information. Radon Reduction Techniques Work Radon reduction systems work. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. The cost of fixing a home generally ranges from $800 to $2500 (with an average cost of $1200). Your costs may vary depending on the size and design of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed. Hundreds of thousands of people have reduced radon levels in their homes. Maintain Your Radon Reduction System Maintaining your radon reduction system takes little effort and keeps the system working properly and radon levels low (see p. 13). U.S. EPA, 402-K , Revised December 2006 Y INTRODUCTION ou have tested your home for radon, but now what? This booklet is for people who have tested their home for radon and confirmed that they have elevated radon levels 4 picocuries per liter (pci/l) or higher. This booklet can help you: Select a qualified radon mitigation contractor to reduce the radon levels in your home Determine an appropriate radon reduction method Maintain your radon reduction system If you want information on how to test your home for radon, call your state radon office (see p. 17) and ask for a copy of either A Citizen's Guide to Radon or, if testing during a home sale, the Home Buyer s and Seller s Guide to Radon. On-line versions of both documents are also available at U.S. EPA, 402-K Revised December HOW RADON ENTERS YOUR HOUSE Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than pressure in the soil around your home's foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings. Radon may also be present in well water and can be released into the air in your home when water is used for showering and other household uses. In most cases, radon entering the home through water is a small risk compared with radon entering your home from the soil. In a small number of homes, the building materials (e.g., granite and certain concrete products) can give off radon, although building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves. In the United States, radon gas in soil is the principal source of elevated radon levels in homes. RADON IS A CANCER-CAUSING, RADIOACTIVE GAS Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of lung cancer deaths each year. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. WHAT DO YOUR RADON TEST RESULTS MEAN? A ny radon exposure e has some risk of causing lung cancer. The lower the radon level el in your home, the lower your family's risk of lung cancer. The amount of radon in the air is measured in picocuries of radon per liter of air, or pci/l. Sometimes test results are expressed in Working Levels, WL, rather than picocuries per liter of air. A level of WL is usually equal to about 4 pci/l in a typical home. 2 U.S. EPA, 402-K , Revised December 2006 The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels; about 0.4 pci/l of radon is normally found in the outside air. EPA recommends fixing your home if the results of one long-term test or the average of two short-term tests show radon levels of 4 pci/l (or WL) or higher. With today's technology, radon levels in most homes can be reduced to 2 pci/l or below. You may also want to consider fixing if the level is between 2 and 4 pci/l. A short-term test remains in your home for 2 days to 90 days, whereas a long-term test remains in your home for more than 90 days. All radon tests should be taken for a minimum of 48 hours. A shortterm test will yield faster results, but a long-term test will give a better understanding of your home s yearround average radon level. The EPA recommends two categories of radon testing. One category is for concerned homeowners or occupants whose house is not for sale; refer to EPA s pamphlet A Citizen s Guide to Radon for testing guidance. The second category is for real estate transactions; refer to EPA s pamphlet Home Buyer s and Seller s Guide to Radon, which provides guidance and answers to some common questions. SELECTING A RADON TEST KIT Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it. When you re ready to test your home, contact your state radon office (see p. 17) for information on locating qualified test kits or qualified radon testers. You can also order test kits and obtain information from a radon hotline (see p. 17). There are two types of radon testing devices. Passive radon testing devices do not need power to function. These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors. Both short- and long-term passive devices are generally inexpensive. Active radon testing devices require power to function and usually provide hourly readings and an average result for the test period. These include continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors, and these tests may cost more. A state or local official can explain the differences between devices and recommend ones which are most appropriate for your needs and expected testing conditions. Make sure to use a radon testing device from a qualified laboratory. U.S. EPA, 402-K Revised December WHY HIRE A CONTRACTOR? EPA recommends that you have a qualified radon mitigation contractor fix your home because lowering high radon levels requires specific technical knowledge and special skills. Without the proper equipment or technical knowledge, you could actually increase your radon level or create other potential hazards and additional costs. However, if you decide to do the work yourself, get information on appropriate training courses and copies of EPA's technical guidance documents from your state radon office. WILL ANY CONTRACTOR DO? EPA recommends that you use a state certified and/or qualified radon mitigation contractor trained to fix radon problems. You can determine a service provider s qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. First, check with your state radon office (see p. 17). Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or registered, and to install radon mitigation systems that meet state requirements. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service providers doing business in the state. In states that don t regulate radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification credential, and if they follow industry consensus standards such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Practice for Installing Radon Mitigation Systems in Existing Low-Rise Residential Buildings, E2121 (February 2003). You can contact private proficiency programs for lists of privately-certified professionals in your area. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-id card, which indicates their qualification(s) and the ID-card s expiration date. For more information on private proficiency programs, visit or contact your state radon office. HOW TO SELECT A CONTRACTOR Get Estimates Choose a contractor to fix a radon problem just as you would choose someone to do other home repairs. It is wise to get more than one estimate, to ask for references, and to contact some of those references to ask if they are satisfied with the contractors' work. Also, ask your state radon office or your county/state consumer protection office for information about the contractors. 4 U.S. EPA, 402-K , Revised December 2006 Use this checklist when evaluating and comparing contractors and ask the following questions: YES NO Will ill the contractor pr ill the contractor provide refer eferences ences or photographs, as well as test results of 'before' e' and 'after' radon levels els of past radon reduction work? Can the contractor explain what the wor Can the contractor explain what the work will involv olve, how long it will take to complete, and exactly how the radon reduction system will work? Does the contractor charge a fee for any diagnostic tests? Although many contractors give e free estimates, they may charge for diagnostic tests. These tests help determine what type of radon reduction system should be used and in some cases are e necessary,, especially if the contractor is unfamiliar with the type of house structur ucture e or the anticipated degree ee of difficulty.. See S Radon Reduction Techniques (p.. 8) for more e on diagnostic tests. Did id the contractor inspect y Did the contractor revie id the contractor inspect your home's structur ucture e before e giving you an estimate? eview the quality of your radon measurement ement results and determine if appropriate testing procedur ocedures es wer ere e followed? Compare the contractor's proposed costs and consider what you get for your money, taking into account: (1) a less expensive system may cost more to operate and maintain; (2) a less expensive system may have less aesthetic appeal; (3) a more expensive system may be best for your house; and, (4) the quality of the building material will affect how long the system lasts. Do the contractors' proposals and estimates include: YES NO Proof oof of state cer oof of state certification and/or professional proficiency or certification credentials? Proof oof of liability insurance and being bonded, and having all necessar oof of liability insurance and being bonded, and having all necessary licenses to satisfy local requir equirements? ements? Diagnostic testing prior to design and installation of a radon r Installation of a warning device to caution you ou if the radon r iagnostic testing prior to design and installation of a radon reduction system? working correctly? Testing esting after installation to make sur A guarantee to reduce radon lev ou if the radon reduction system is not esting after installation to make sure e the radon reduction system works well? educe radon levels els to 4 pci/l or below,, and if so, for how long? U.S. EPA, 402-K Revised December The Contract Ask the contractor to prepare a contract before any work starts. Carefully read the contract before you sign it. Make sure everything in the contract matches the original proposal. The contract should describe exactly what work will be done prior to and during the installation of the system, what the system consists of, and how the system will operate. Many contractors provide a guarantee that they will adjust or modify the system to reach a negotiated radon level. Carefully read the conditions of the contract describing the guarantee. Carefully consider optional additions to your contract which may add to the initial cost of the system, but may be worth the extra expense. Typical options might include an extended warranty, a service plan, and/or improved aesthetics. Important information that should appear in the contract includes: The total cost of the job,, including all taxes and permit fees; how much, if any,, is requir equired ed for a deposit; and when payment is due in full. The time needed to complete the work. An agreement by the contractor to obtain necessary permits and follow requir equired ed building codes. A statement that the contractor carries liability insurance and is bonded and insured to protect you in case of injury to persons, or damage to proper operty ty,, while the work is being done. A guarantee that the contractor will be responsible for damage during the job and clean-up after the job. Details of any guarantee to reduce radon below a negotiated level. el. Details of warranties or other optional features es associated with the hardwar dware e components of the mitigation system. A declaration stating whether any warranties or guarantees are e transferable if you sell your home. A description of what the contractor expects the homeowner to do (e.g., make the work area accessible) before e work begins. 6 U.S. EPA, 402-K , Revised December 2006 WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A RADON REDUCTION SYSTEM A Consumer s Guide to Radon Reduction In selecting a radon reduction method for your home, you and your contractor should consider several things, including: how high your initial radon level is, the costs of installation and system operation, your house size, and your foundation type. Installation and Operating Costs The cost of a contractor fixing a home generally ranges from $800 to $2500, depending on the characteristics of the house and choice of radon reduction methods. The average cost of a radon reduction system is about $1200. Most types of radon reduction systems cause some loss of heated or air conditioned air, which could increase your utility bills. How much your utility bills increase will depend on the climate you live in, what kind of reduction system you select, and how your house is built. Systems that use fans are more effective in reducing radon levels; however, they will slightly increase your electric bill. The table on page 16 lists the installation and average operating costs for different radon reduction systems and describes the best use of each method. U.S. EPA, 402-K Revised December RADON REDUCTION TECHNIQUES There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the house and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the house where it is quickly diluted. Any information that you may have about the construction of your house could help your contractor choose the best system. Your contractor will perform a visual inspection of your house and design a system that considers specific features of your house. If this inspection fails to provide enough information, the contractor may need to perform diagnostic tests during the initial phase of the installation to help develop the best radon reduction system for your home. For instance, your contractor can use chemical smoke to find the source and direction of air movement. A contractor can learn air flow sources and directions by watching a small amount of smoke that he or she shot into holes, drains, sumps, or along cracks. The sources of air flow show possible radon routes. A contractor may have concerns about backdrafting of combustion appliances when considering radon mitigation options, and may recommend that the homeowner have the appliance(s) checked by a qualified inspector. Another type of diagnostic test is a soil communication test. This test uses a vacuum cleaner and chemical smoke to determine how easily air can move from one point to another under the foundation. By inserting a vacuum cleaner hose in one small hole and using chemical smoke in a second small hole, a contractor can see if the smoke is pulled down into the second hole by the force of the vacuum cleaner's suction. Watching the smoke during a soil communication test helps a contractor decide if certain radon reduction systems would work well in your house. Whether diagnostic tests are needed is decided by details specific to your house, such as the foundation design, what kind of material is under your house, and by the contractor's experience with similar houses and similar radon test results. 8 U.S. EPA, 402-K , Revised December 2006 House Foundation Types Your house type will affect the kind of radon reduction system that will work best. Houses are generally categorized according to their foundation design. For example: basement, slab-on-grade (concrete poured at ground level), or crawlspace (a shallow unfinished space under the first floor). Some houses have more than one foundation design feature. For instance, it is common to have a basement under part of the house and to have a slab-on-grade or crawlspace under the rest of the house. In these situations a combination of radon reduction techniques may be needed to reduce radon levels to below 4 pci/l. Radon reduction systems can be grouped by house foundation design. Find your type of foundation design above and read about which radon reduction systems may be best for your house. Basement and Slab-on-Grade Houses In houses that have a basement or a slab-on-grade foundation, radon is usually reduced by one of four types of soil suction: subslab suction, drain tile suction, sump hole suction, or block wall suction. Activ ctive e subslab suction (also called subslab depressurization essurization) is the most common and usually the most reliable radon reduction method. One or more suction pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the crushed rock or soil underneath. They also may be inserted below the concrete slab from outside the house. The number and location of suction pipes that are needed depends on how easily air can move in the crushed rock or soil under the slab, and on the strength of the radon source. Often, only a single suction point is needed. U.S. EPA, 402-K Revised December A contractor usually gets this information from visual inspection, from diagnostic tests, and/or from experience. A radon vent fan connected to the suction pipe(s) draws the radon gas from below the house and releases it into the outdoor air while simultaneously creating a negative pressure (vacuum) beneath the slab. Common fan locations include unconditioned house and garage spaces, including attics, and the exterior of the house. Passive subslab suction is the same as active subslab suction except it relies on natural pressure differentials and air currents instead of a fan to draw radon up from below the house. Passive subslab suction is usually associated with radon-resistant features installed in newly constructed homes (see p. 14). Passiv assive e subslab suction is generally not as effective in reducing high radon levels as active subslab suction. Some houses have drain tiles or perforated pipe to direct water away from the foundation of the house. Suction on these tiles or pipes is often effective in reducing radon levels. One variation of subslab and drain tile suction is sump hole suction. Often, when a house with a basement has a sump pump to remove unwanted water, the sump can be capped so that it can continue to drain water and serve as the location for a radon suction pipe. Block wall suction can be used in basement houses with hollow block foundation walls. This method removes radon and depressurizes the block wall, similar to subslab suction. This method is often used in combination with subslab suction. Crawlspace Houses An effective method to r
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