Testing your home for radon is easy. The test is usually completed in 48 hours and the lab report is usually available in 1 week or less. Homes with levels of radon that exceed the established limit the can be fixed (mitigated) relatively inexpensively. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends that all homes be tested for radon. Most lenders require it and most attorneys encouarge it. All radon measurement technicians are required to be certified by the New Jersey DEP. You can verify certification by calling the DEP’s Radon Information Line at (609) 984-5425. It is against the law to do radon testing or mitigation without certification in New Jersey.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rock. It is invisible, odorless and tasteless. Radon enters homes through openings that are in contact with the ground, such as cracks in the foundation, small openings around pipes, and sump pits. When you breathe air containing radon, you can substantially increase your risk of getting lung cancer. Smokers are at even greater risk.
What are Acceptable Levels?
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has established that radon levels of less than 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) are acceptable. For readings that exceed the limit the DEP and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both recommend that you take action to mitigate your home.
How Can Radon be Mitigated?
If you find that you have high radon levels, there are relatively easy ways to fix the problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. The most common type of radon mitigation system is the sub-slab depressurization system. This system uses venting and sealing to lower radon levels in the home. A pipe is installed that runs from below the basement flooring to above the roofline, with a fan at the top that draws radon out from under the slab. Cracks and openings in the foundation are sealed. The radon is vented through the pipe to the outside, where it is quickly diluted.
The average price of such a system is around $1,200, although prices can range from $500 to $3,000, depending on characteristics of the home and the underlying soil. You can hire a New Jersey Certified Radon Mitigation Company to do the work for you. New Jersey Certified Radon Mitigation professionals meet specified education and experience standards and must take continuing education classes each year to maintain their certification. It is against the law for uncertified contractors to do mitigation work in New Jersey.
After your home has been mitigated, make sure the mitigator does a post-mitigation test to prove the system is working properly. Retesting your home every two years will tell you whether or not your system is still working effectively in reducing the radon level to below 4 pCi/L.
How Is It Tested For?
In real estate transactions a single short-term test of 2-7 days in length is the most common and can be used to indicate the radon level in your home. If a single short-term test reveals levels of 4 pCi/L or more, DEP data indicate that subsequent testing would confirm that levels in the home are 4 pCi/L or more in 80 percent of cases. If a second short-term test is conducted in the same location (either simultaneously or at different points in time), and the results of the tests are averaged, the average will provide a slightly more accurate estimate of radon levels.
For short-term tests, it is very important to maintain “closed house conditions,” since ventilation can increase or decrease radon levels in unpredictable ways. This means all windows and doors that let in outside air, on all floors, must be kept closed except for normal entrances and exits. You need to maintain closed house conditions until the short-term test is finished. For tests that last less than four days, closed house conditions must be started at least 12 hours before you begin the test. In addition, attic and window fans, fireplaces and wood stoves (unless they are the primary heat source) should not be used for the duration of the test. They will affect air pressure in the house which will in turn affect radon concentrations. Air conditioning can be used if it circulates inside air rather than bringing in air from the outside.
A variety of short-term test devices are available, including charcoal canisters (2-6 days), electrets (2-6 days), and continuous radon monitors (1-6 Days). The DEP Radon Program considers all short-term test devices used by certified companies to be equally reliable.
A long-term test of 3-12 months is also possible and will provide the best estimate of average exposure over time, since radon levels fluctuate daily and by season. Because gases are drawn to areas of lower pressure, radon gas will enter the home at a rate that depends on the air pressure inside the home, which is affected by temperature, wind conditions, exhaust systems in the home, etc. Long-term testing should include the winter months, when radon concentrations are often higher than at other times.
Long-term test devices are usually either alpha track detectors or electrets; both tests are considered equally reliable and accurate.
Bottom line is if you are Buying a Home, Have It Tested For Radon.
Call Us At (201) 298-3722 To Get Started.