Exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is an invisible concentration of radon gas coming from the natural decay of uranium in soil, which enters homes. As radon in homes is inhaled, high levels of radon gas damage lung tissue and significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
Because radon is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, the only way to know if your home has dangerous radon levels is to perform a radon test. If there is a presence of radon gas in homes, you can install a radon mitigation system to prevent radon from entering the house.
In a home with a radon mitigation system, homeowners and home buyers can see radon levels fall by up to 99 percent, creating a safe home for their family. Home buyers can encounter a “For Sale” house with a radon mitigation system installed to pipe the gas away from the house.
In our guide, you can learn more about whether you should buy a home that has a radon mitigation system installed. By the end, you’ll better understand how high levels of radon can harm your family. So, if you are considering buying a home, have a home inspection, and ensure the radon mitigation system works to keep you safe from radon exposure. (Read Houses In The Middle Of Nowhere)
How Does Radon Gas Get Into Homes?
Radon gas enters homes through cracks and openings in the foundation, where it can accumulate to dangerous levels. A test is the only way to know if there are high radon levels.
The U.S. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend taking action to reduce radon levels in homes that are 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking, where around 21,000 deaths each year are linked to radon exposure.
What is a Radon Mitigation System?
A radon mitigation system is installed in homes with elevated radon levels to reduce radon gas concentration in a home. Radon is a radioactive gas formed from the natural decay of uranium in soil and rock. When radon seeps into homes through cracks in the foundation, it can accumulate to dangerous levels.
The purpose of a radon mitigation system is to prevent radon gas in your home and to remove existing radon from the home. This is accomplished through a pipe and fan system that draws radon from beneath the home and vents it outdoors. Properly installed radon mitigation systems can reduce the home’s radon levels by up to 99%.
Should I Avoid Buying A Home With A Radon System?
For homes that tests positive for radon gas levels, mitigation systems should be installed by law in most states. The EPA and the World Health Organization recommend taking action to reduce radon when levels of radon gas are 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher. If a home tests at or above this level, radon mitigation is recommended.
When shopping for a home, ask the sellers for copies of any radon tests conducted by a home inspector. Suppose the home has a high concentration of radon without a mitigation system in place. Negotiate with the seller to get a radon test and install the mitigation system. Also, they could offer a discount as you want professional radon gas installers to fix the radon problem and reduce radon levels in your home.
What To Look For When You Buy A Home With Existing System?
If you’re considering buying a home that already has a radon mitigation system installed, here are some things to look out for:
- Ask for documentation: Ask to see paperwork from the radon mitigation company showing the pre- and post-mitigation radon levels. This will confirm that the system is working properly in reducing the home’s radon.
- Inspect the fan mechanism: Ensure the radon fan is working to vent the gas beneath the home. Listen for the fan’s hum and check that airflow is vented through the exhaust pipe.
- Check the exhaust pipe: Verify that the PVC exhaust pipe is properly vented to the exterior of the home. It should vent well above the eave line so radon cannot re-enter.
- Review maintenance records: Ask for all documents about the radon mitigation system. Well-maintained systems should be inspected annually.
- Conduct an independent radon test: Even with the mitigation system in place, it doesn’t hurt to conduct a radon test. This way, you can assure yourself the radon levels are safe (below 4 pCi/L). (Read Big Fat Black Flies In My House)
Should You Buy a House with an Existing Radon Mitigation System?
Most times, buying a home with an existing radon mitigation system in place is recommended. Here are some benefits of having a mitigation system already installed:
- Peace of mind: You can feel confident knowing that radon levels are being kept low and any radon is safely vented from the home—no need to worry about exposure risks.
- One less thing to do: The sellers have already addressed the radon issue, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle and expense of installing a system later.
- System is already proven: Presumably, the sellers have documentation showing the system was installed correctly and functions to reduce radon—no guesswork needed.
- Potential negotiating point: Since the sellers already installed the system, it may be reasonable to negotiate a discount or credit from the home price given this added value.
However, there are also a few downsides to consider:
- Maintenance responsibility: You’ll need to maintain the system in the future, including inspecting it annually and repairing or replacing it if needed.
- System age: Older radon mitigation systems may be near the end of their useful life. Replacing an aging or failing system can cost $1200-$2000.
- Altered home aesthetics: The exhaust pipe changes the exterior look of the home. For some homeowners, this is an undesirable eyesore.
What Maintenance Is Required for Radon Mitigation Systems?
One thing to know before buying a home is that radon mitigation systems require minimal ongoing maintenance, yet the installation cost can be high. Most times, contractors can install a radon pipe under the basement floor to divert gas from that part of the home.
The most important maintenance task is checking the HVAC system fan to ensure it is still working properly. Fans typically last 5-10 years before needing replacement.
Here are some other maintenance tips:
- Have a professional test the system annually to verify radon levels remain low.
- Replace filters on the radon piping as needed.
- Visually test for radon flow in the vent pipe to ensure it remains sealed and weatherproof.
- Have a professional radon mitigation contractor make any necessary repairs to prevent radon particles entering your home or treating homes with radon levels higher than allowed.
Does a Radon System Affect Home Insurance?
If you live in a home with a radon mitigation system, it won’t affect home insurance as it is an improvement to the home. Insurance companies recognize these systems make the home safer by maintaining an average radon gas concentration under specified limits.
Some insurance companies offer a discount on premiums if recent radon testing found levels below 4 pCi/L. Having documentation that your home has a radon mitigation system and is working to remove radon in the home. This may help secure these discounts even on a home with high radon levels. Overall, a radon mitigation system installed in a home shouldn’t cause any increase in insurance costs. (Read Plant Fertilizer Mixed At Half Strength)
Can I Remove Radon Mitigation System When Buying A House?
Technically, a radon system can be removed from the home you are buying if desired. However, this is not recommended as the risk of radon will increase.
The system was initially put in place because of a radon problem and to keep radon reduction at desired levels. This means your likely to have radon issues if the system is removed.
Will Radon System Deter Buyers When I Resell The House?
If you decide to sell your home, you’ll find little risk of having a home with radon gas mitigation system affecting the ability to sell the home. It is more likely to attract buyers who will appreciate the home has been treated to reduce radon hazards and can increase the value of your home.
Many buyers specifically look for homes with radon mitigation systems. It signals the home is radon-free and safe and can stop radon from entering a house. Thus, removing a properly working radon system would be unwise and could deter buyers who want a home tested and need a radon mitigation system.
Key Takeaways on Buying a Home with Radon Mitigation
- Only buy a home with radon mitigation if documentation proves the system was properly installed by a certified radon contractor and it effectively reduced radon levels of the home.
- Inspect the mitigation system thoroughly and perform an independent radon test to confirm it functions appropriately.
- Consider the benefits of not having to install a system yourself vs. taking on the maintenance and potential replacement costs down the road.
- Mitigation systems installed within the past 5-10 years are ideal, while older systems may need replacing soon.
- While radon systems alter aesthetics, this is a minor tradeoff for the health benefits of reduced radon risks to occupants of the home.
- As a buyer, ensure you choose who installs the radon mitigation system if the home doesn’t have one.
In most situations, purchasing a home with an existing radon mitigation system is smart since radon can be there, and you won’t know it.
This system protects from the dangers as radon comes into the home and overexposure. Just be sure to verify documentation on the installation, inspect the mechanics of the system, and test radon levels before purchasing the home.
What is a radon mitigation system, and what does it do?
A radon mitigation system is a ventilation system used to reduce radon gas levels in the home. It works by drawing radon from beneath the home and venting it to the outside before it can accumulate inside.
How can I tell if the radon mitigation system is working properly?
Ask to see radon test results before and after the system was installed to confirm it effectively reduced radon. Inspect the fan mechanism to ensure it is operating. Also, consider doing an independent radon test. (Read How To Tell If A House Is Section)
How much maintenance does a radon mitigation system require?
Radon mitigation systems should be inspected annually to check fan operation and vent piping. Fans may need occasional repairs, and the system may need replacing every 10 years.
Does a radon mitigation system hurt the value or salability of a home?
Radon mitigation systems do not negatively impact home value or salability. They improve salability by mitigating health risk.
Can I remove an existing radon mitigation system if I don’t like how it looks?
You should not remove or disable an existing radon mitigation system, which will allow dangerous radon levels to return. Repainting components can remedy aesthetic issues.
Should I hire a radon mitigation contractor to inspect the system before purchase?
Having a certified radon mitigation contractor inspect the system before buying a home is a good idea. They can assess proper installation and performance.