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When Should You Check for Radon in Your Home?

Posted by Jordan on Jan 23, 2015 1:38:31 PM

Why Winter Is The Best Time To Test For Radon

You may have seen ad campaigns on billboards or TV commercials each winter reminding you to get your
Check for radon in your homehouse checked for radon. So what exactly is radon and why do we need to be concerned about it in our homes? We have some important facts about this dangerous (and mysterious) gas and the reasons why winter is the best time to test for radon.

What Is Radon And Why Is It Dangerous?

According to the Minnesota Department of Heath (MDH), radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that seeps up from the earth. It comes up from the soil as uranium naturally decays and breaks down to radium, which then turns into radon gas.

It is found everywhere in our environment, but in low levels, it isn’t harmful. If trapped inside your home, though – especially when it’s sealed up tight for the cold winter – it can build to dangerous levels. Long-term exposure to radon can have major effects on your health. In fact, the American Lung Association says radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind tobacco. 

If you look at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s map of Minnesota radon zones, you’ll see that our state has the geology and climate that makes us prime candidates for high radon levels in our homes.  All Minnesota counties are in either moderate or high potential radon zones.

Why Check For Radon In Winter?

“The best time to check for radon is the time of the year when our homes are sealed up the most – winter,” says Keith Hill, manager, technical support, at Minnesota Air. “If you test out ‘OK’ during the winter months, you can be sure that the rest of the year your home will have lower radon levels.”

There are several test options available. You can buy a short-term test that monitors radon levels over a few days, or more accurate ones that can take up to a few months. The American Lung Association says that short-term tests are a good way to indicate if your home has a problem and requires follow-up testing.  They suggest, “two short-term tests back-to-back may be a good way to determine whether you need to take action.” 

Most hardware stores sell kits, but Minnesota residents can purchase discounted radon test kits directly from the manufacturer or partners of the MDH. “The good news is that they are relatively inexpensive, and easy to perform, so there is no reason not to have your home checked,” says Keith. He says if you’ve had your home tested in the past, you may want to do it again if you’ve made changes to your home. New windows, siding, or anything else that may restrict the natural ventilation may cause an increase in radon levels.   

What’s Next? 

If the tests say you need to take action to get radon removed from your home, what should you do? Depending on the levels found inside, the solution could be as simple as increasing your mechanical ventilation, or as much as a full radon abatement system for those with very high levels, says Keith.

To find the option that’s right for you, you may want to discuss it with your HVAC professional or with a certified radon mitigation contractor trained to fix radon problems. You can see the radon removal options we’ve discussed in a previous post and find further information on the EPA’s Guide to Radon Reduction.

Whatever option you choose, know that testing and treatments for radon need to be addressed in order to have a safe and happy home for the people living in it.

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Topics: Home Maintenance