What is radon mitigation? How does it work? What is the difference between an interior…
Radon Mitigation Installation Process – Found out that you need to lower your home’s high radon levels? This is often called radon mitigation or radon remediation. What do these terms mean? First of all, good news: fixing radon is normally a very straightforward process and most often can be done in just a few hours by a professional company.
99%+ of all homes that have high radon can have it mitigated, or fixed, by installing a permanent radon system. This system is designed to create negative vacuum pressure in the dirt under the lowest slab and vent these soil gases up at the roof line. This process is called active soil depressurization.
So to be clear, the radon system is sucking the air under the house and not inside of the house. The system will not be pulling out your air-conditioned or heated air. The radon system runs 24/7, can last for decades without maintenance, and only costs a few dollars a month in electricity.
Since this is a permanent new addition to your home, radon systems should be installed as hidden as possible on both the inside and outside of the home. The last thing you want is a permanent ugly pipe in the middle of your downstairs family room or in the front of your house. Hiding the radon system is a little bit of an artform so make sure that you hire a reputable licensed radon mitigation company to do the job. You want to talk to who you are hiring to make sure that they will look for ways to hide the system and not just install it in the easiest place to make their job easier.
Radon Mitigation Installation – A radon system consists of pipes to direct the air, an inline fan to pull the suction, an electrical switch to turn the system on and off, and an airflow gauge to monitor the system’s performance. Let’s talk about each of these:
- The first thing to do is for the installer to evaluate your home to determine the best location to hide the system both inside and out.
- Suction Pit
- A hole is drilled into the lowest slab to install the piping. Once the concrete is removed, a suction pit must be dug in this hole to provide adequate surface area for maximum suction. Our company normally digs out 15 gallons (3 Home Depot buckets) of material for the best performance of the system. The harder the digging, the more it is needed.
- Either 3” or 4” schedule 40 PVC pipe is installed into the hole. Make sure that the installers have sealed well around the pipe and the hole or you will have a lot of noise and house air sucked down into the system. Our company installs a PVC bushing to hold the pipe and glue it into the hole to make sure this is done correctly. Which pipe size to use? It totally depends on the size of the slab, how long the pipe run is, and the material under the slab. A good installer will easily be able to determine which size to use once they know all of these variables.
The radon piping can go either to the outside of the home at ground level and run up to the eve of the roof or it can be routed inside the home through a chase, closets, the garage, or other creative ways. The Radon Mitigation Installation goal again is to hide the system.
- System Type
- Exterior systems are when the piping is on the outside of the home. The radon fan is installed down as low as possible but still above the ground to not be an eyesore. It looks like a basketball on a pipe. Above the fan, the piping should be directed up against the house and then transition to aluminum downspout (which can be painted to match the home) or stay PVC which is a little quieter but not as attractive. Our company also includes a sound muffler into the piping above the fan to quiet the system down.
- Interior systems are when the piping can be kept hidden inside of the house. A common interior system route for example would be from the basement mechanical room up into the attached garage, running up the garage wall (since no one cares about a pipe in the garage), and up into the attic space above the garage. The radon fan would then be installed in this attic space and then a pipe would exit the roof with flashing around it to weatherproof it.
- Radon fans must be able to be turned on and off. A simple switch can be installed next to the fan or the fan can have an electrical whip installed (think 3 prong plug) and it can be plugged into an outlet next to the fan. If this outlet is outside, make sure that it is weatherproof.
- Airflow Gauge
- The final components of the Radon Mitigation Installation would be the airflow gauge called the manometer and the appropriate stickers for the system. The manometer is a clear bent tube with colored liquid in it. One end of the tube goes into the system pipe and the other end is left open. The suction of the pipe will pull the liquid up and there are markings on the manometer.
- The markings are normally in tenths of an inch of water column. The higher the reading, the greater the suction and less airflow. The lower the reading is less suction but greater airflow. This seems counter-intuitive. The lower the number means you have more porous dirt under your home and there is more air moving through the system. Please note the manometer reading is NOT the radon level. It is only measuring the amount of suction in the pipe.
Here are a few things to look for when installing a radon system:
- Get a firm radon mitigation installation quote from the radon company before any work begins. Often it is possible to get an exact quote right over the phone. Just make sure that you get the pricing in writing before you start.
- A reputable radon mitigation company will provide a written estimate and guarantee before beginning. The major radon fan manufacturers currently provide a 5-year replacement warranty on their products. Make sure the company installing the system will not charge any service fees to come out and replace the fan if needed within the warranty period.
- Installation for 99% of radon systems should take less than a day. Often, it can be installed in a few hours by two workers. This will not be a huge construction project.
- A good radon company will keep the worksite clean during installation and then clean up any installation debris before leaving. Your home and floors should be just as clean if not better than before they arrived.
- Your radon mitigator should provide a short-term radon test after installation (at no extra charge) to retest your radon levels. Wait at least a few days for the radon system to take full effect and conduct this important test. You want to make sure the radon is now down below the guarantee given by the installation company.
- Check your manometer reading at least once a month to make sure that the system is still running. A properly installed radon system can be so quiet that you don’t notice if it is turned off. The most common reason why a radon system is not running is NOT because of a bad fan. It normally is the switch has been turned off of the power outlet that the system is using is part of a GFCI circuit that has been tripped.
- Retest your home every two years. Radon levels can change. The EPA recommends that you retest every couple of years to ensure your family is still safe from this dangerous radioactive gas.
- Eventually, the radon fan will go bad. Most of the time, it is 10, 15, or even 20 years after installation. The fan normally won’t just shut off. The old bearings will start going bad and the fan will start getting louder and louder. Time to replace the fan. Call the company that installed the system so you can maintain performance guarantees and system warranties.
Hopefully, this information was helpful in describing the radon mitigation process. There are some cases that are different like when homes have crawl spaces, multiple slabs, extra large houses, etc. A good mitigation company should easily be able to answer any of your questions about these kinds of situations or others. If you live in Utah, Utah Radon Services is here to help you with any of your radon testing or mitigation needs. Please contact us at 801-871-0715 or go to utahradonservices.com.