Radon Testing Home Inspection
When ensuring your home is safe for you and your family, you might worry about physical threats like fire hazards and window guards. However, invisible dangers are lurking, some without your knowledge. While carbon monoxide or natural gas might come to mind, did you know that your home could be slightly radioactive?
In recent years, radon testing is much more widespread throughout the United States. However, radon testing first began in 1975. It was not until 1984 that high radon levels caused alarm, giving birth to the U.S. Radon Industry. Today, many homeowners, particularly those looking to buy or sell, are paying attention to radon.
Because this substance is radioactive and harmful to humans, you need to know what to expect. This article will dive deep into radon testing for homes so that you can keep yourself and your family safe.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. You could have high levels of radon and not even know about it. The only way to determine whether your home has radon is with a test kit.
What Does Radon Do?
According to the U.S. government Center for Disease Control (CDC), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. If someone breathes in radon over long periods, they will develop significant health problems. Currently, around 21,000 lung cancer deaths come from radon poisoning. Cigarette smoking is the only thing worse for your lungs.
What Causes Radon?
As we mentioned, radon is naturally-occurring, meaning that it does not come from human-made actions. Instead, you can find radon in rocks and soil throughout the country. Uranium deposits emit radon gas, which can pass through most surfaces, including dirt, concrete, wood, and drywall. The more uranium in an area, the more likely you will find a high level of radon.
How Common is Radon in Homes?
Unfortunately, radon exists everywhere, including all 50 states. Click this link for an interactive radon map from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that illustrates "radon zones" where the gas concentrations are highest.
The CDC estimates that around 1 in 15 homes has elevated radon levels, translating to about eight million households. As you can see from the radon zone map, the Midwest is the hardest hit, while coastal areas have lower concentrations. That said, even if you live in an area with less radon, the American Lung Association, CDC, and EPA recommend testing for radon to verify the danger.
What are the Symptoms of Radon in Your Home?
As we mentioned, radon gas is odorless and colorless. Radon test kits are the only way to verify how much radon you have in your home. While you can develop health problems, it often takes years before you will notice any issues. Overall, radon does not leave any physical traces that would make it noticeable without testing.
Where is Radon Found in Homes?
Technically, you can find radon gas anywhere on your property. However, since uranium deposits are underground, radioactive particles travel up through the soil into your house. So, areas beneath your home like basements and crawl spaces are most at-risk for elevated radon gas levels.
What are Acceptable Radon Levels?
The EPA recommends keeping radon levels at or below four Picocuries Per Liter, or 4.0 pCi. That said, you want to have as little radon as possible, so aim for two pCi/L if possible.
What is a Radon Testing Home Inspection?
Since you can only detect these particles with a certified radon test, you may want to bring a home inspector out to determine your current levels. However, you can also conduct the test yourself with an at-home radon testing kit. This kit measures indoor air, particularly near windows and doors where radon gas can seep in.
How Does Radon Testing Work?
Because radon concentrations are not excessively high, radon tests take at least a few days to get accurate results. Here are some guidelines on how to test your home for radon.
- Do not leave any windows or doors open for extended periods. You do not have to disrupt your everyday routine, though; you can come and go as you like.
- Do not run any window fans during the test, as this can offset the results.
- Close all exterior doors, windows, and vents 12 hours before the test and all the way through until you are finished.
- You can conduct the radon test any time of year if closed-house conditions can stay the same during the test.
- Avoid testing if a storm is coming to your area, as high winds can affect radon levels.
- While you can test anywhere in your house, you will want to check sublevel areas like a basement or crawl space. Typically, these spots have higher concentrations than the rest of the house.
There are two primary testing methods: activated charcoal canisters or alpha track detectors. Both options are inexpensive and easy to use. As passive devices, all you must do is set the test in a high-traffic area for the specified time and then send it to a lab for results.
If you call a professional home inspector, they will likely use an electric ion reader. This device is more accurate and can get results faster, but it is also more expensive and harder to calibrate.
Who Tests for Radon Gas?
Homeowners can test for radon themselves (DIY), or they can hire a professional inspector. Sometimes, you may be able to get a free test radon kit from your state radon office.
How Long Does a Radon Test Take?
On the short end, a short-term test takes as little as 48 hours. However, for more accurate results, you should wait at least three days. A long-term test takes 90 days or more to determine whether radon levels fluctuate throughout the year.
If you opt for a long-term radon test, you do not have to worry about opening windows or sealing cracks since they stay in place for months at a time.
Short-term radon tests take at least three to seven days, not including the 12-hour prep time mentioned above. You can also opt for long-term radon tests, which use continuous monitoring devices to check radon levels for extended periods (i.e., 90 days).
Both options can give you an idea of whether to invest in a radon mitigation system to lower your levels.
Radon Test Results Time Frame
Once you send your test kit to the laboratory, they will reply with results within a few days or weeks (depending on the radon testing lab).
Is a Radon Test Required?
Currently, no state requires radon testing. However, many of them do require disclosure of any tests during any real estate transactions. So, if you tested for radon and plan to sell your house, you must disclose the test results to potential buyers.
In some cases, buyers may request a radon test before closing the deal. If that does happen, you (the seller) are on the hook for any costs associated with testing and mitigation if the levels are high.
How Much is a Radon Test?
Most test kits are quite affordable, costing around $20 or less. However, a professional radon home inspection costs at least $125 to $275, depending on where you live.
Is Radon Testing Covered by Home Insurance?
No. Unfortunately, since radon is naturally occurring, homeowners insurance does not cover testing or mitigation. As a rule, your home insurance policy only pays for sudden and accidental claims. Unless someone suddenly and accidentally spews a bunch of radon gas into your house, you must pay for everything out of pocket.
How to Pass a Radon Test
Radon tests are not necessarily "pass" or "fail" - unlike high school. That said, if your radon levels are at or below four pCi/L, you do not have to worry about mitigation systems.
Does Air Conditioning Affect a Radon Test?
The answer depends on the types of air conditioning units you use. Central air systems are okay because they can maintain consistent air pressure and do not bring anything from the outside. However, if you use window-mounted air conditioners, they should stay off during the test. These rules only apply to short-term tests, though.
How Accurate are Radon Tests?
While short-term testing is far more convenient as a homeowner, the kits are much less reliable. According to new research, short-term radon tests that last less than 90 days are imprecise up to 99 percent of the time. The primary problem is that radon levels can fluctuate based on environmental factors. So, while these kits do detect radon, the results are not as accurate as those that measure levels for more than three months.
Overall, if you are selling a home, a short-term test should suffice, but if you are worried about prolonged radon exposure, you should opt for a long-term testing option.
What Do You Do if You Have Radon?
All homes have radon, but those with levels higher than EPA recommendations should install a radon mitigation system. Typically, this system includes a vent pipe and a fan to blow radon particles back outside. If you have a crawl space or a basement in your home, you need to be sure to vent it and the rest of the house. In some cases, the upstairs section may have safe levels while the basement is toxic.
While you can mitigate radon yourself, you should hire a certified radon mitigation contractor. Fortunately, most states have laws regulating these radon mitigation contractors and the building materials they can use so that you can compare quotes with confidence.
What is a Radon Detector?
Test kits measure your radon levels, but they do not work for continuous operation. Instead, you can install a radon detector, which works similarly to a smoke detector. If radon levels get too high, a siren beeps, warning you of the danger. If your detector sounds off regularly, it is time for a mitigation system.
Is Radon Damage Covered by Home Insurance?
While radon is harmful to humans, it does not affect your home at all. So, do not worry about radon damage. If a contractor destroys part of your home while installing a sump pump or vent pipe, however, that may be a different story.
Get a Home Insurance Quote Today!
Even though homeowners insurance does not protect against radon, having a policy is always a smart decision. Compare quotes and companies by clicking below!
Hope that helps!
At your service,