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  • Writer's pictureJohn@LiteHouse

What is Radon Testing? Is it Real?

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

If you are buying a home in the greater Cincinnati Ohio area, your realtor will likely have already told you how important it is for a buyer to inspect the home before finalizing the sale. But did you know that a radon test is important, too?

Measuring indoor radon levels gives you insight into an important aspect of home air quality and lets you know if your dream home has a radon problem. If so, the agent may try to lower the purchase price to cover the cost of radon mitigation.

What if I already have a house but its never been tested for radon before? It's never too late to take action with these important health and safety precautions. It's easy to buy a kit from a hardware store, but it's best to ask a professional home inspector who is also licensed to perform radon testing.

Here's what you need to know.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas naturally present in the earth. Elements like uranium and radium release radon when they break down in the rocks and soil under the house.

Uranium and radium are radioactive materials. The same goes for radon gas, which can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Radon spreads quickly through the atmosphere and only leaves small amounts in the air we breathe, so it's not a problem outdoors. But if your home, especially newer homes, is sealed tightly, you can have elevated risks. This is because the radon stuck inside can rise to dangerous levels.

Because the radon is odorless, tasteless and invisible, the only way to see if you have problems in the home is to have radon tested. It is recommended to test your home, by the EPA and CDC, even if you do not live in a high-risk area.

What is the radon test?

Radon levels can be measured by collecting radon gas or radioactive particles in radon test kits. These samples are used to estimate the total amount of radon in your house air. Since Radon gas rises from the ground, radon equipment should usually be in the lowest level of your house.

In general, there are two different types of radon tests: active and passive. The most common passive device is a charcoal canister. These tests involve activated charcoal, which absorbs radon gas and is sent to the laboratory for measurement. As the name suggests, passive testing is done at your home during the collection period (usually 48 hours, but some tests last up to a week). It is important to keep the house primarily closed during the test to obtain accurate results. If you leave the windows open, high radon levels will be "hidden" by the test as the gas will escape leaving false lower readings.

Home improvement store kits are helpful, but they aren't the most accurate or complete measurement of radon in your home. These small kits can give varied results depending on where you place them. The hiring of a specialist will help you get accurate readings.

Active radon test devices are run continuously during the testing period to read the radon levels in your home. It must be professionally placed and is useful to understand how to radon levels fluctuate in your home. You can use these monitors for short or long term tests to suit your specific needs and your testing professional can give you guidance with this. Active radon detectors are often part of a complete radon mitigation system installed to reduce radon levels in your home. A radon detector tells you that the system is working as intended and that your home is still being protected.

When the radon test results are available, the measured value is picocuries (pCi/L). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), households with more than 4 picocuries per liter of radon gas should implement radon mitigation to reduce harmful gas levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends fixing at 2.7 picocuries.

How much does a radon test cost?

Radon testing is fairly inexpensive if you pick up a test kit from a hardware store. It's only $10-30 for quick results.

For more detailed and accurate results, a professional radon test is recommended. They are administered by home inspectors who have been specially trained for radon testing. They do not take long and are quite economical when bundled with standard home inspections. According to HomeAdvisor, a radon test typically adds $90 to $250 to the cost of the scan, which is significantly less than the average price of $444 for a standalone radon test. Costs vary based on the radon risk in your area and the square footage of your home. You can check LiteHouse Inspect's pricing here.

Radon and Real Estate: Reality vs. Myth

There is a myth that radon can kill deals when it comes to home sealing. The risks of living with radon are real, and you definitely shouldn't move into a home with high radon levels due to the risk of lung cancer. But many people believe that the house with Radon is radioactive and can not be lived in.

It is not true! First, because radon is gas, it is not a part of the structure of the house. Second, a high radon level has a simple and specific solution: Radon mitigation.

Radon mitigation is a system installed that reduces home radon levels. You can not completely remove Radon, but the radon reduction system will help you stabilize gas at low levels in the home. Often, the system consists of a tube installed through your basement or slab floor and into the earth below. The tubes will run from the basement level to the roof to expel the gas.

The tube has an attached fan which pulls underground air through the tube and out the other end. This method puts the gas higher in the atmosphere, where it dissipates safely.

The Radon reduction system should be installed by a licensed professional, so the work cost is $800 to $1500 depending on the size of the home and area you live. Although radon tests are expensive, good real estate agents will often recommend radon tests through a professional home inspection before the purchase of the home. If you know, pre-purchase, that radon is a problem in the home, a realtor can ask the seller to reduce the price to cover the cost of radon reduction. Many sellers will be happy to do this to close a sale, especially since other potential buyers are likely to make the same request.

Attention to sellers: We recommend that you test radon as well. Just as a pre-listing inspection can help you decide which home repairs to invest in, a radon test can help as well. With safe level results, you can advertise low radon numbers in the listing. If your levels come back high, you can work with your agent to determine whether to correct the issue or adjust your sales price accordingly.

Attention home owners: It's never too late to test your home for radon! Since Radon is a major reason for lung cancer, the EPA recommends for every residential home to be tested. Knowing how your home is will help you make decision for your safety and the safety of your family.

Reach out to LiteHouse Inspect today and we will get your radon test scheduled quickly!

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