Monday, August 12, 2013

Final Steps in Radon Remediation


This Fantech radon remediation fan has been created to have the fan parts shielded sufficiently to function out of doors, as many are installed that way. Still the fan will require replacement potentially every ten years as it works under continuous load conditions keeping your home's radon levels as low as possible.

  As the longer term readers of this blog know, we have a basement finished at living space with superior walls.  The superior walls are a concrete custom constructed panel designed to lock together at corners. It has the benefits of producing a stronger more disaster resistant product and lower energy costs over time.  Following construction and finishing, we had the radon levels measured there, which fell well 2 picacuries.  Then, just after the 5.8 Virginia earthquake in 2011, we decided to have the radon levels rechecked, and found them to be higher.  We then invested in a continuous radon monitoring device, and found that prior to additional earthquake aftershocks that the radon would spike, and decrease somewhat afterward.
                Radon higher than 2-5 picacuries intermittently is not dangerous.  However, experts think that anything beyond 5 should be remediated.  Even a house closed up, and revisited which is a ten is probably not a problem.   Higher than normal radon levels over years can increase the chances for lung cancer, especially in smokers.   Fortunately, a huge amount about radon remediation has been learned since in 1980s when this became much more of an obsession for homeowners, especially those living in parts of rural NJ, on subterranean uranium beds which leak radon daughters to the surface, which are held in, in particularly energy efficient homes.
               We have used the continuous radon monitoring device for the last couple of years, and as the aftershocks have waned, so has the radon.  We did plan, however, to have a radon venting system added to the house at a later date.  We did this because we have finished living space on the lower level including a full bathroom, and three additional bedrooms.  That later date was this weekend.  The very best book for learning about radon and remediation is

  Protecting Your Home from Radon: A Step By Step Manual for Radon Reduction
  by Douglas L. Kladder (Author) , James F. Burkhart (Author) , Steven R. Jelinek (Author)

        In many homes, relatively very easy actions can be taken by the homeowner which will drop the radon levels significantly, and this is why the book is such a good investment.
        Although our levels did not require us to remediate, we needed to look at how much time we do spent in our home, particularly time to time. The fact that people sleep in our lower level meant that any elevations whatsoever should be addressed if possible.  Also, in an emergency, we could all be living on our below ground level.  We had a more complex situation by virtue of the large size of the structure, and the slab being below the basement floor, rather than a crawl space.  In addition, the very thick custom superior walls made retrofits more challenging.  To consistently keep the radon levels below 2 picacuries under all seasons, window conditions, power outages, and pre-quake and after-quake conditions, we needed to have installed a different system than many.
      Sometimes, a specialized radon venting fan can be installed, with a vent piping, outside the building, but we did not want this outside the home.  For us it was necessary to have someone drill through a particular region of the basement concrete slab and to install a large PVC pipe which came up through the house through all the levels and then vent through the roof, where it would be capped.  In the attic, there is a specialized fan which was installed with the intent of changing the pressure gradient sufficiently to vent the radon out through the top of the house, and away.  This was a challenge only because the large pipe could not be visible in the house. It had to traverse through walls or regions that would not be seen, and this took planning.  The fan also needed to be wired in to a place in one of the attics where it could be accessed and maintained as needed.  Then, we had to have the money to do this, when it wasn't financial priority one.

You can buy replacement Fantech fans here

This is another type of radon venting fan made by the same company.

The above fan can be purchased here.

This is what many radon remediation systems look like.  We wanted ours hidden inside. (Picture by:

Here is a more hidden fan

                     In a week, we will have new measurements of radon from each room with the new system working.  Let's hope each room is below 2.0 picacuries, which is our target !

                 This is health information and risk assessment materials from an authoritative source concernign radon, and specific radon levels.

    Radon Health Information and Risk Assessment Data

    US Radon Map Zones 

 Radon can be an issue all over the world, as well as the US and Canada.

My prior posts on different aspects of radon:

UPDATE:    October 26, 2013      I am happy to report that all finished and unfinished basement rooms fell below 2.0 picacuries when measured two weeks following final installation.   The real test would come when Winter came and when windows would no longer be open, and the basement would be closed to retain heat.
In the last week an early cold came through, and we saw our first hard freeze.  Temperatures were 34 degrees F overnight.     The continuous radon monitor confirms that our radon levels are 1.8 in all measured areas.     In addition, the fan at the top of the page, which lives in the attic, and we cannot hear, has not made a palpable difference to our electricity bill, despite the fact that it runs continuously.


kymber said...

wow! Jane - the stuff i learn here blows my mind! thanks for taking the time to write all of the posts about radon and for explaining it. i really had no idea about this and will start researching! i hope when your levels are tested that they are under 2. let us know after the testing is done.

your friend,

BBC said...

I've never paid any attention to radon, guess there is no point in starting now.

lotta joy said...

Fear of radon used to keep me awake at night. SO did asbestos. I tore out all the asbestos in our basement. Yes. No breathing equipment. Just a knife, a spray bottle of water, and garbage bags. The old cellar was nothing but cracks. I knew to stop the radon would have been impossible.

JaneofVirginia said...

Some areas simply don't have the problem. Basements with a lot of cracks often have a lot of air circulating, and so the radon might come in, if you are an area that has it, and then it may well go right out again. The problem became a problem when in the 70s and 80s we are tightened up our houses and there were fewer air exchanges per hour. It might never have been a problem there.
Our first home had a porous basement and although neighbors with new homes had radon levels of 50 picacuries plus, ours was 1.2 because it was 40 years old, and not terribly well insulated.

JaneofVirginia said...

Again, older homes permit more air exchanges per hour and are less likely to have higher radon levels. It might never have been a problem there. It isn't a problem everywhere.

JaneofVirginia said...

One of my degrees is in Environmental Studies and so this is something I am supposed to know about. There is a radon hotspot in, I believe, Lunenburg, NS. I am not aware of one on Cape Breton Island. If your neighbors haven't mentioned it, it may not be an issue in your area at all.
Thanks for the good wishes. I will post the radon levels here when we have them.

kymber said...

Jane - you are too smart for your own good and ours - bahahahah! but i am glad that you are as smart as you are and that you share such incredibly helpful information asking nothing in return - it speaks to your character which i personally know is beautiful! i am searching high and low about radon hotspots in cape breton - haven't found much of anything useful - but to be honest - there is not alot of information about cape breton in general. the mere fact that cape breton island IS the actual beginning of the appalachian mountain range worries me. i'll keep researching. you are so welcome for the good wishes - we have you and yours in our thoughts and prayers always. and yes - please post when you have your radon levels tested! thanks Jane!

your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

My goodness ! The person who is certified to speak Korean for the military thinks I"M bright ? You are brilliant in so many ways, and so is Jam. There are so many different types of intelligences, and abilities. As I understand this, in order to have excessive radon levels, you need to have uranium below ground. New Jersey has huge amounts of uranium under ground, and because of Northern NJ's proximity to New York City, and Southern N.J's proximity to Philadelphia, there was a moratorium for mining it for many years. There are radon hotspots in many places, but not in every place. This is accurate information for Canada, who incidentally measures radon levels differently than we do, in becquerels per cubic metre.

Radon is not felt to afflict Cape Breton Island.

Sandy Livesay said...


I never really thought much about radon until we moved into my parents basement years ago. They had a basement apartment we rented while we were in the process of changing out jobs. After we moved out, we found out there was some radon in the basement. My parents had to have the basement fixed before selling their home. Experts came in and took care of the radon problem. I have fear exposure to this for 4 years will cause a problem to either myself or my family.

JaneofVirginia said...

Short term radon exposure is unlikely to produce lung cancer, unless the person was predisposed anyway.
The bottom of this page helps to explain and help calculate risk.

Chances are you are fine so long as you don't have long term exposure to radon....eight, ten, fifteen or thirty years at very high amounts.

If you did have higher exposure for a longer period of time, you can tell your doctor and he/she will either explain that your risk is not great given the details of your exposure, or they can do better monitoring in order to detect and then cure lung cancer, which is increasingly possible today. Of course, cases found in later stages don't have the good cure rates we enjoy today.

I hope that we caught our radon issue quickly after the earthquake, and that it didn't simply creep up here over time, in advance of it. I am also concerned about this for my sons because my mother-in-law died of oat cell carcinoma of the lung at only 50, and so they may be genetically predisposed to lung cancer anyway.
We can't avoid all risks, but we can manage them.

Best wishes to you, and thanks for your post !

BBC said...

Someday I may take up the fine art of exposing myself, hahahaha

JaneofVirginia said...

To radon or otherwise ? I wouldn't think it would be worth the jailtime or suspended sentence as the case may be. LOL

kymber said...

teehee - i am actually UN certified. but oh my goodness - on the spot translation is soooo hard and i really have nothing but the utmost respect for people that can do it! i certainly can't! and tho i did work for a few years on translating military contracts between canada and south korea - it bored the living crap out me! you on the other hand - know a whole pile of stuff about a whole pile of stuff. and i am glad for that - because i wouldn't know about a whole pile of stuff without you. thanks jane, on behalf of all of your readers, i say thank you for providing all of this information to all of us. we appreciate it!

you know that you and yours are always in our thoughts and prayers so i don't even have to say it. your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

Kymber, I appreciate your kind words. Korean is such a tough language, and you had to translate some of the most difficult uses of it, Korean-Legalese ! You should be very proud of all you achieved in the Canadian military.
I am always grateful for your friendship, and your input.