Testing For Radon
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection estimates that 40% of all Pennsylvania homes have radon levels higher than the recommended safe level of 4.0 pCi/L. Radon has been discovered in all 67 counties in the state. The highest residential level ever reported in Pennsylvania was 3750 PCi/L, detected in a Lehigh County home in 2014.
You cannot see, smell, or taste radon, but a simple test can quickly reveal if you are living with unsafe levels of this carcinogenic gas. Do-it-yourself radon tests are simple to perform, very inexpensive (approximately $20), and highly accurate. This type of short-term test takes 2-7 days to complete and then is mailed to a laboratory for immediate analysis.
If you are buying or selling a home, a professional radon test may be a required part of the transaction. Contact the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental protection for a list of certified radon measurement professionals. Professional radon testing costs approximately $150. A home inspection company may include radon testing as part of their services.
Short Term And Long Term Radon Testing
Short term radon testing takes from 2 to 90 days and is the quickest way to learn if you are living with unacceptable levels of radon. It is important to note that short-term tests give you a snapshot of your radon level. Radon levels vary day-to-day as well as season to season. A short-term test will return an indicator of the average radon level for the test period. However, this information is a reliable guide for deciding on the need for radon mitigation.
Long-term tests remain in the home for more than 90 days. These tests give the best indication of the average radon level that exists in the home year round.
How To Use a Test Kit:
Carefully follow the instructions that come with your test kit. If you are conducting a short-term test, doors and windows should be kept closed through the testing period. Air conditioning or heating systems should be set to recirculate. Fans that draw in air from the outside should not be run during the test. For short duration tests of 2-3 days, windows and doors should be kept closed for 12 hours prior to starting the test. Severe weather can affect test results so do not conduct a short-term test during extended periods of high winds or severe weather.
Place the test kit in the lowest lived-in level of the home. It should be located in living space that is regularly occupied. Radon testing should not be done in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room as humidity can affect results. The kit should be placed a minimum of 20” from the floor in a location where it won't be disturbed. The location should be free of drafts, high heat and humidity and should be at least 12” from an exterior wall. Leave the kit in place, undisturbed for the duration of the testing period.
When testing is complete, seal the kit according to the directions and make sure that you provide all the test information requested. Mail the kit immediately to the lab for analysis. Delay in mailing can invalidate test results.
WHEN TO TEST FOR RADON
Every home should be tested for radon. If you did not test your home prior to moving in, the best time to test is NOW!
The Pennsylvania DEP requires that a short-term test be conducted as a follow-up to installation of a radon mitigation system. This is to ensure that the system is adequate to reduce radon levels below 4.0 pCi/L. Many mitigators prefer for this follow up testing to be done by the homeowner or a third party to eliminate any appearance of a conflict of interest.
Several factors can influence the radon level in your home. Even if you have a mitigation system installed, the EPA recommends that homeowners retest their homes approximately every two years. Normal settling of your home can open radon entry routes or reopen old ones. Making modifications to the home (such as adding a garage or installing a pool, patio or deck) can change the way that radon gas travels through soil in the immediate area. Construction or blasting nearby can disturb surrounding soil. If you are making major alterations to your home or if there is construction or heavy equipment use nearby, retesting is advised. Under these conditions, an increase in radon is not due to failure of your radon mitigation system and modifications to your system may be necessary.