Radon FAQ

Q: What is Radon?

A: Radon is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas created from natural deposits of uranium in the soil. Radon gas can be drawn into a building and accumulate to concentrations that may cause a health concern. Finding high levels of radon in a home has nothing to do with the age, quality, or upkeep of the home.

Q: What are the Health Risks?

A: Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. For more information, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/radon

Q: How do I test for radon?

A: There are three common ways to test for radon:

  1. Buy a test kit from the local health department, hardware store, or online. These kits are inexpensive and perfectly accurate if the instructions are followed as closely as possible.
  2. Buy an electronic radon monitor made for homeowners. Most of these can be found online.
  3. Hire Abatron Engineering or a home inspector to test with a professional radon monitor.

Q: How do I know if a home has elevated levels of radon?

A: The only way to know if a home has elevated levels of radon is to have the house tested. The US EPA has set the action level at 4.0 picocuries (pCi/L). If test results confirm levels higher than 4.0 picocuries you should consider taking steps to reduce the radon levels. Central Wisconsin and especially Marathon County is high in radon. Every home may test differently depending on home design and the source of excavation materials.

Q: What does a radon system do?

A: The radon system draws radon, moisture, and other soil gases from beneath the home by vacuum pressure. The soil gases and moisture are then vented outside the home, above the roofline where they dissipate.

Q: How do I know if my radon system is working?

A: The red liquid in the radon system monitor will show as one side higher than the other. The amount will vary from system to system depending on the soil beneath the home, but if one side is slightly or significantly higher than the other, the system is operating as it should be. If the red liquid lines on the monitor are at zero/even with each other, then there is an issue with the system. The system monitor DOES NOT read radon levels in the home.

Common problems if the system monitor is at zero/even with each other:

  1. The On/Off switch is turned off
  2. A GFCI outlet (outlet with a RESET button) the system is plugged into may be tripped
  3. The system may be frozen (See below)
  4. The fan may have failed

Q: Is there any maintenance to do on the radon system?

A: There is no maintenance on the radon system other than to visually check the system monitor every few months to ensure it continues to operate as it should (see above.) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you retest your home for radon every 1 – 2 years. See below for testing methods.

Q: Why doesn’t the radon system have a rain/snow cap or screen on the exhaust pipe opening?

A: The radon system expels an ample amount of moisture from the exhaust termination point. When extremely cold temperatures arise, the caps or screens tend to freeze up much faster than if the pipe is left open. It is not snow that freezes the pipe, it is the moisture the system pulls from the soil. The radon fan is waterproof. It is designed to have moisture pass through it on a consistent basis.

Q: It is extremely cold outside, and it seems that my radon system has frozen up. What should I do?

A: In extremely cold temperatures, the radon system exhaust has the potential of freezing up. You will know this if the system monitor red liquid lines are at zero/even with each other. The radon system expels an ample amount of moisture from the exhaust. When temperatures drop below zero, moisture can begin to freeze in the exhaust. When temperatures remain below zero for multiple days in a row, the system exhaust has the potential to completely freeze up. It is not snow that freezes the exhaust, it is moisture the system expels from the soil. The fan must be kept on during this time because it will continue to push warm air up through the exhaust and eventually thaw the exhaust out once temperatures increase to 15 – 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Exterior install systems are equipped with an emergency cleanout cap located just above the fan. If extended periods of below zero temperatures are forecasted, you can temporarily remove this cap. This significantly reduces the chance of the radon system freezing up. Even if the exhaust is already frozen, this cap can be removed to allow the system to continue running. Be sure to reinstall the cap once temperatures increase to 15 – 20 degrees.

"Indoor radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country.  It is important to know that this threat is completely preventable.  Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques." 

- US Surgeon General Health Advisory