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With concerns about radon exposure becoming increasingly more common over the last decade, more and more people are looking for ways to limit and mitigate their exposure to this potentially harmful gas. While there are a number of ways to go about combatting the presence of radon in your home or office, a traditional system will mitigate radon but, an energy recovery ventilator can add extra benefits to your HVAC system on top of radon mitigation. But before we get into that, let’s go over some of the basics of radon and radon exposure.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas formed by the natural decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil. Odorless and tasteless, radon can seep into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation, walls and other openings. Although radon is natural and present in nearly all the air we breathe, high concentrations of it can be dangerous.
Where does radon accumulate?
Since radon gas escapes from the soil, levels tend to be higher in basements and ground floors, especially in homes and buildings built on soil that’s rich in uranium, thorium, and radium. Homes that are tightly sealed and well insulated also may have higher levels of radon, as gas that seeps in through cracks in the foundation has no way to get out.
What are the dangers of radon exposure?
The number one risk associated with radon is lung cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute found that radon exposure contributes to between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States every year. That makes radon exposure second only to smoking among leading causes of lung cancer in the U.S.
How do I find out if I’m at risk?
Testing for radon is easy and relatively inexpensive. Neighbors can provide you with a charcoal test kit for free or they can be purchased for relatively cheap from a home improvement store. You can also check your state’s list of licensed radon testers for professional short and long term tests. If you rent, you should ask your landlord about getting the building tested.
How can I reduce radon levels in my home or office?
If you’ve looked into radon exposure before, you’ve probably heard of people using energy-recovery ventilators for radon mitigation. Energy-recovery ventilators or ERVs for short are mechanical ventilation systems that replace the stale, stuffy and polluted air in your home with fresh air from outside, effectively diluting the radon concentration in a given room or area.
Since energy-recovery ventilators have a radon reduction rate of 50 to 75 percent, they are not always the best solution for areas with significantly high concentrations of radon. However, for rooms with poor ventilation and relatively low levels of radon, using an energy-recovery ventilator can be an effective method of radon mitigation. They also include benefits such as; cutting down on indoor pollution, helping to cool and freshen hot and stuffy rooms, and clearing the air in rooms where paint or other chemicals might be stored. The benefits of an energy-recovery ventilator go far beyond radon mitigation.
Remember: the EPA recommends a level no higher than 4 piC/L. And since you can’t smell or taste it, you’d never know on your own whether or not your home is at risk. If you have reason to believe that your basement, home or office building might contain high or even moderate levels of radon, be safe, have the area tested and look into a solution that works for you. You never know, a little ventilation could go a long way.