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How Do I Know The Radon Mitigation System Is Working?

How do I know the radon mitigation system is working?

I get that question all the time.

Some houses have a radon mitigation system installed, which consists basically of a pipe stuck through the basement floor, connected to a vent fan which runs all the time, and a tube to blow the air outdoors.

It's pretty simple.  The fan is literally drawing air from under the house.  If the air is laden with radon gas the fan will help get it removed and blown out of the house.

Radon is a very fragile, negative ion.  It only lasts about 3 1/2 days, and is easily dissipated by opening doors or windows.  But it can accumulate.  Too much build up, it is thought, is not good, and something that some people might want to eliminate from the house.

If a house tests high for radon a vent system is installed.  I'm told the fan draws about as much electricity as a light bulb, so it is not a huge energy user.

On the side of the vent tubing, usually PVC, a U-shaped test tube is placed, with a small plastic tube which extends inside the vent tube.

Once that hole is sealed pressure is created.  The test tube is partially filled with water, tinted blue or red, and that tube will show if there is pressure.

The water in this test tube is level, and therefore there is no pressure in the tube.  That would indicate that the fan is not working or there is no suction.

In this case I could put my ear on the tube and hear that the fan was operating.  So there was a different problem, which would have to be evaluated.

Each such mitigation system has a sticker which indicates who installed the system and their phone number.

Conversely, the water in the tube in the photo to the right would say that the fan is operating and there is pressure.

So the system would indeed be drawing radon gas from the house.

That would answer the question, if asked!

When walking around the outside of a house I can always see if there is a system installed.

Then, upon entering the house, I will take the time to find it and show it to my client.

From there it's a quick discussion on radon gas, and how to get additional information if needed.

If radon is an issue to the buyer that little lesson usually calms any nerves.

My recommendation:  radon may or may not be prevalent in your area.  If it is a radon test is a simple thing.  It most often takes 2 days, and the results are sent after the test is completed.  Keep in mind that radon amounts can vary, but at least a test will give an idea of its ability to get into and reside inside a house.  And decisions can be made.

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 23 commentsJay Markanich • May 31 2017 09:00AM

Comments

Only once in a couple decades of real estate has anyone ever re-tested when a mitigation system was present.  We have one in our own home and it is very very common to be found throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 2 years ago

The protocol is to retest after a mitigation system has been installed, S&D, but if the house should have high results after that there is not much more than can be done.

I have never tested after a system was installed where the house had high radon.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

My area has no radon to speak of, but ye t new laws require some kind of mitiation system

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) almost 2 years ago

We have radon in my area, and in my house. I didn't know about the 3 1/2 days - I learned something new!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) almost 2 years ago

William - that makes utter sense!  The Nannies will overwhelm us.  Next I will be required to have a deflector shield on my house to protect me from full moon beams.

It doesn't last long, Kat.  Which is why it's so easy to mitigate.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

Good morning Jay. A lot of places have a potential radon gas problem where mitigation is necessary. Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) almost 2 years ago

Good morning Jay. I like this very much. I never knew. I have seen some sytems with monitors but most don't have them.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) almost 2 years ago

Jay Markanich That is so simple and effective to reveal the function of a radon elimination system. Great share!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (Realty National & Geneva Financial, Llc.) almost 2 years ago

I have only run into one operating mitigation system here... I think a salesman got to them.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 2 years ago

Wayne - yep, and now you know how to see if there's pressure!

Sheila - I thought the monitors were required, but perhaps that is state by state.  I've never seen a system without the test tube.

S&N - one time I saw the test tube on the OTHER side of the tube, and invisible without a camera to take the photo to have a look at it!

Fred - maybe they did one of those special carbon plate tests and got the results they were hoping for!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

It has been many years since I was involved in a radon test in Oklahoma City and only because some relocation companies required it.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) almost 2 years ago

It's all about the liability, Joe.  Cover all bases!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

This is excellent information to share with area home owners.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) almost 2 years ago

Thanks Roy.  I thought so too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

Good Morning Jay - I have read about these mediation systems.  I think we tested a while ago and were ok.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) almost 2 years ago

OK then would be OK now, Grant.  It doesn't change much with time.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

Good second chance post.

I have seen systems that still tested high after the mitigation system was installed. Then it required another system at the other side of the house.

Also had one test high after many years when the home was sold again. Found out the seller had done  some digging to remodel the lower level. At that time the radon guarantee was voided and another system needed to be installed.

Posted by Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) almost 2 years ago

Interesting Margaret.  I have never had a house test high after a system was installed.  And I didn't know they come with guarantees!  Not around here, anyway.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

In PA we can get very high readings, usually as soon as a system is installed it rectifies the problem as the retest shows. Occasionally the retest shows there is still a high reading and the remediation company comes back and usually installs more pipes so more radon is vented through the pipe system. Also we were told Radon always rteads higher after a rain storm. 

Posted by Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543, Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line (Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400) almost 2 years ago

N&T - radon will be higher where there is a lot of buried rock.  As to high readings, a low barometer or high winds can influence it and make it higher.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 2 years ago

thanks for putting this post together - I really have wondered how to answer that anxious question from a buyer 

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) 4 months ago

Dear Jay,

Some time ago, I sold a house on a slab with a radon system. I did not see that little tube on it. The system was more than 20 years old, according to the neighbors. Inspector did not complain about it, just questioned why someone felt they had to put one. Never found out.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) 4 months ago

Lise - during a home inspection I actually test the system in front of the buyer so they know how to do it.  I'm a teacher and an inspection is a series of mini lessons.

Dorte - I have only had one house test positive on a slab, and I called the scientist at the company where I buy my radon equipment.  He said it's possible and the house might have been situated right on top of a big uranium deposit.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 4 months ago

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