Radon and The Importance of Testing Your Home for It

Radon and The Importance of Testing Your Home for It

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is found all over the country but especially in areas along the east coast, and in Northern Virginia.

The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third level especially if there is an in-ground basement or little ventilation on the lowest level. The EPA also recommends testing before you buy or sell a home.

How Do You Test for Radon in Your Home?

Radon in the air is measured in picocuries per liter of air, or pCi/L. The average indoor radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L. Radon levels should be below 4 pCi/L. If the radon level in your home is above that, you need to fix the problem. Levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L can still pose a risk and should be reduced. It’s estimated that one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. have elevated radon levels. The Virginia Department of Health has published a map showing radon zones in our state.

Since you cannot see or smell radon, you will need a special test kit to determine the radon level in your home. You can order a radon test from a qualified radon measurement services provider or laboratory. You can also hire a qualified radon tester to do the testing for you. There are two different radon testing devices — passive and active.

  • Passive devices – Passive testing devices don’t need power to function and include charcoal canisters, alpha‑track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices and electret ion chamber detectors. There are both short-term and long-term passive devices and both are generally inexpensive. Use a short-term test if you need results quickly, then follow up with a long-term test to get a better picture of your year-round radon levels. Some passive devices offer more resistance to test interference than others. Short-term tests can be done in as little as two days. Long-term tests take about 90 days.
  • Active devices – Active testing devices require power to function and include continuous radon monitors and continuous working level monitors. These devices continuously measure and record the amount of radon in the air. Since the devices are continuously recording, they can report on any unusual rise in radon levels. Active radon testing devices are a little more expensive but deliver more reliable results. They also offer more resistance to test interference.

Buying and Selling a Home

If you are selling your home, it’s recommended that you do a radon test. Based on my experience, a third-party radon specialist who can provide written results of the test, provides good information for you and for the potential buyer. If you have already done the test and received a positive test result, and have consequently mitigated the radon, you just have to make sure the meter on your radon-reduction system is properly working.

If you are buying a home, you can either accept an earlier test result from the seller, or pay for a new one. When considering the results of a previous test, know who conducted the test (homeowner, radon professional or some other person), where in the home the test was conducted, and what changes, if any, have been made to the HVAC system since the test was done.

What You Should Do If Your Home Has Elevated Levels of Radon?

If the radon levels in your home are high, you will need a qualified radon-reduction (mitigation) contractor. The mitigation contractor will:

  • Review testing guidelines and measurement results, and determine if additional measurements are needed.
  • Evaluate the radon problem and provide you with a detailed, written proposal on how radon levels will be lowered.
  • Design a radon-reduction system.
  • Install the system according to EPA recommended standard, or state and local codes.
  • Make sure the finished system effectively reduces radon levels to acceptable levels.

You should choose a radon mitigation contractor just like you would any other contractor. Get more than one estimate, and ask for and check their references. Make sure the person you hire is qualified.

It’s also not recommended that the same person or company that does the testing also install the mitigation system, due to a possible conflict of interest. If the same person or company does the testing and mitigation, make sure the testing follows the Radon Testing Checklist.


Looking for real estate services in Gainesville, Haymarket or Bristow? Contact your local real estate expert Belinda Jacobson-Loehle of Jacobson Realty and Home Staging In Gainesville, Virginia today. Also be sure to sign up now for a FREE copy of my eBook, “The Real Estate Key – What You Need to Know!”

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