A BPE series on radon’s harsh realities.
PART FOUR: How to lower cancer risk, breathe easier,
and save money in one shot.
Throughout BPE’s series on radon, we have discussed the tragic and unnecessary results of allowing radon to run unchecked through your home or office. We have explained the gas itself and how it moves. We have pointed out its whereabouts and how many people it affects yearly. Curious as to the levels in our CEO Klas Haglid’s home in New Jersey–a state notorious for higher radon levels–we ran tests and discovered how proper ventilation can bring levels down impressively. And we, hopefully, drove home the importance of bringing radon levels down as low as possible, even if they already fall below the action levels issued by the EPA and WHO.
Have you tested the radon levels in your indoor environments yet? Whether you do your own investigation with a digital radon detector (if you recall, we used an Airthings Home 223 Radon Detector) or hire a professional to run the test for you, you now know that using 4.0 pCi/L as your only incentive for taking action is playing a game of chance. Certainly, whether you utilize short-term and/or long-term tests, radon seepage can vary over time causing variable readings. But if you are exposed to levels higher than those outdoors (0.02 to 0.75 pCi/L) daily, why not do something about them regardless of fluctuations?
TAKE CONTROL. At BPE, Inc., we are big believers in what proper ventilation can do for any building and the people who occupy it. Further down, you will again see why implementing BPE Clean Displacement via an Energy Reduction Ventilator (ERV) simply makes sense when it can lower radon levels on top of its other virtues. Still, there are other methods for mitigating radon depending on the building in question, your goals, the codes in your area, and the investment you are willing to make.
For homes with basements or slab-on-grade foundations, soil suction–sucking radon gas out of the soil beneath the foundation and sending it out of the building–is a frequent choice. Methods include subslab suction, block-wall suction, sump-hole suction and drain-tile suction. These are considered passive suction systems as the pressure differentials between the soil and the building promote suction of the gas. Active subslab suction, however, involves a boost from electric power in the form of a fan and monitoring system.
Crawlspace homes can benefit from covering the exposed soil with a special plastic sheet, which serves to catch the gas coming up from the soil. A fan and pipe are used to reroute it outdoors. This is called submembrane suction.
HRV’s or Heat Recovery Ventilators, like ERVs, can increase ventilation by bringing outdoor air in to kick the bad air–in this case radon–out of the home. Heating and cooling costs can increase substantially using this method.
Pressurization on the lowest levels of the building via a fan is an attempt to literally push back at the radon, preventing it from entering. If this method is used, residents cannot leave doors or windows open as this will compromise the pressure.
BUNCH OF BIRDS-ONE STONE. As demonstrated in the case study in Part Two of this series, an ERV can make a real impact on radon levels by creating the positive air pressure that pushes radon out of the building. When folks think of ERVs, they typically think of those with an average energy efficiency of 50%. At that point, you’re in the same boat as those with an HRV, fighting rising heating and cooling costs in exchange for its efforts. However, when an ERV system can be 80% to 98% efficient, a whole new world opens for those aiming to keep their home or building safe, healthy, comfortable, and cost efficient. Not only can you reduce radon levels, but other indoor pollutants are pushed out as well. Not only can you create a healthy environment, but ERVs can balance indoor temperatures, heating or cooling the air using the energy found in the air being exhausted. With such a high rate of efficiency using just 38 watts in fan power, the person who pays the bills will find their heating and cooling costs going down since their HVAC doesn’t work as hard. How well can an ERV maintain comfortable indoor temperatures? The following study demonstrates exactly that!
Do advanced ERVs have a sizable upfront cost? Sure. But they are on par with many other radon mitigation systems. The question is, why not invest in a system that will reduce radon levels, send additional pollutants packing, maintain comfortable temperatures, and save on energy costs? Suddenly, investing in an ERV is not so pricey.
We are looking for feedback on your experiences with radon issues. Please drop us an email at email@example.com, tweet, visit our Facebook, or LinkedIn page and answer the following: Were you fully aware of the dangers of radon before reading this article? Do you know your radon level numbers? If so, what are they and do you feel you need to do something about them?
We hope this series is food for thought in bringing more attention to the very real and unnecessary deaths caused by indoor radon exposure. The fact is, if you are above the Mason Dixon line, you have a radon issue. If you want to reduce it by up to 75%, give BPE a call. We can help.