Welcome Back Readers! This is the third of four articles in our Radon series, this week Matt Steger from WIN Home Inspection talks a little more about Radon Testing where it should be done and how important “Closed House” conditions are. Don’t know what that means? Read on after the jump to find out!
This week, let us continue our discussion about radon testing.
Since radon concentrations depend upon air movement within a structure, to properly and reliably test for radon, the EPA has specific standards for radon testing. Namely, closed house conditions must exist before the radon test starts to help limit exterior effects. The EPA defines “Closed House Conditions” as all doors and all windows in the home (not just basement windows) kept closed starting at least 12 hours prior to the start of a radon test and continuing throughout the test period. This does NOT mean close the windows and doors once the inspector arrives to place the radon tester. Exterior doors can be opened and closed momentarily for normal entering and exiting the home. Central heating or A/C systems must also be run normally beginning 24 hours prior to the test and for the test duration. This helps ensure real life occupancy conditions in the home and normal drafting within the home. Whole-house fans or window A/C units (unless in circulating mode) must not be operated during the radon test since these exchange air with the exterior. If the home already has a radon remediation system installed, it should be running normally 24 hours before the test starts.
Before the radon test occurs, the inspector or radon test professional should call the home’s owner or occupant to discuss all of the radon test requirements. When the inspector arrives to drop off and retrieve the radon test, he will do his best to verify that closed house conditions have been met. I require the home owner or occupants (if occupied) to complete a radon test agreement to make ensure the owner or occupant is aware of the required test conditions prior to the radon test, maintained these conditions through the test period, and won’t interfere with or damage the test device. Should any violations be found, the radon test must be voided since the results can not be relied upon for accuracy and a retest should be performed. This agreement is also a quality control measure.
The US EPA and PA DEP (Dept. of Environmental Protection) have specific requirements regarding where in the home radon testing should and should not occur. This is related to things such as proximity of the test device to windows, doors, heating/cooling vents, and outer walls as well as near sources of moisture like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. The rules set forth by the US EPA and PA DEP do vary a little regarding radon test placement, but the PA DEP regulations actually make better sense, in my opinion, and since we are in PA, the DEP regulations are what we must follow as radon testing professionals.
The US EPA calls for the radon test placement in the current lowest finished level of the home, whereas the PA DEP requires that radon testing occur in the lowest possible living level. In PA, this normally will be the basement unless there is a dirt floor or the basement ceiling height does not allow for normal living conditions. If the basement has a concrete floor where children can play or an adult can occupy or have a workshop, for example, this is where the radon test should occur in the Commonwealth.
In the Harrisburg and Lancaster areas, a standard short-term radon test performed by a PA DEP licensed professional (to ensure that all test requirements are met) will normally cost anywhere from $100 to $175.
Next time, we’ll discuss what to do if a radon test shows high radon concentrations in your home.
If you are buying a home with me I always recommend a home inspection and Matt Steger with WIN Home Inspection is THE expert I recommend to all my clients. You can call Matt at 717-361-9467 to set up a time for him to help you too!
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Weichert, Realtors – Engle & Hambright
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