We take pride in our radon systems which are installed properly, using quality materials. Our radon mitigation systems operate safely for a long service life, requiring very little maintenance.
However, some radon contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners install radon mitigation systems using substandard materials and improper methods. This often leads to unsafe systems and non-working systems that need repair or replacement.
1. Love of Money or Greed – A Radon contractor or homeowner, who know better, cuts corners to save time and or material costs.
2. Ignorance – A do-it-yourself homeowner or inexperienced radon contractor who just plain does not know the proper way to do it and assume their work is good enough. There is plenty of information readily available on how to properly mitigate radon so this ignorance is akin to Laziness.
Incompetent and unethical work in radon mitigation installations are two of the main reasons radon mitigation standards were developed. Different radon certification training programs and radon contractor licenses have been developed and are required in some states to help reduce the practice of installing improper and unsafe radon mitigation systems. A side note, this is the reason we got into the radon mitigation business. As we became educated as to what a proper radon mitigation system looks like, we realized there were very few systems that were properly installed according to the EPA Radon Mitigation Standards.
Radon contractor certifications and licensing are no guarantee for a quality or safe radon system. Unfortunately, the many hundreds of substandard and unsafe radon mitigation systems are installed by “certified contractors”.
The vast majority of radon systems are installed as a contingency to sell a home, and are paid for by the home seller. In this case the home seller typically looks to hire the least expensive contractor who can get the radon reduced to an acceptable level and usually do not care about the quality of the system (they are selling the home).
As in any business, there are those who have no qualms about cutting corners to get the job or make a bigger profit. Cutting corners in a radon mitigation system may be: using substandard materials, improper methods, improper testing, worthless warranties or no warranty at all, or no guarantee the system will even work. Often radon systems are installed and never even tested to determine if they work or not. The new homeowner does not find out its not working until they go to sell the house some years later and another radon test is done that finds high radon.
An Important Note on Radon Certifications, Licensing, and Professional Training: It’s ironic that most of the improper radon installations we’ve observed over the years were installed by so called “Radon Certified” – individuals or companies, which had taken the required classes and passed the exam and paid the fee to obtain their certified status. There are several different national organizations and agencies that offer “Radon Certifications.” From what we’ve seen, radon certifications are used primarily for marketing; they certainly are not good for any type of job quality assurance.
Below are some examples of improper and unsafe radon mitigation systems.
Poorly Designed Systems
The termination of the radon vent pipe. Radon vent pipes should not terminate below operational windows where the radon could potentially get back into the house through an open window or door.
The improper installation of vent pipe. A partial trap was formed in the horizontal radon vent pipe below the fan. In radon vent pipes one must always consider where the condensation collects and drain to.
Radon Vent Pipe Water Trap. Trap, that will catch and hold condensation moisture pulled from the crawl space soil. A typical radon fan can pull up to several gallons of water a day from the soil depending on how much moisture is present. Proper installation requires all radon vent pipes to be pitched so that any condensation or water drains unrestricted back to the ground. This partial blockage is not good for the fan and restricts the air flow, reducing the efficiency of the system and could get quite nasty over time.
Water trap formed in a radon vent pipe. This section of pipe could potentially completely fill with water and block of the air flow which would render the system pretty much useless. Any plumber understands this is a big no with drain pipes. Radon vent pipes need to follow plumbing drain pipe installation for the most part because of all the moisture that is pulled through them.
Fan install on an angle and radon fan in a basement. In part for the same reason above all radon fans are required by the manufactures to be installed in an upright position because when installed horizontally or on an angle as this fan, condensation will pool and become trapped, filling the bottom section of the fan housing. The fan will be spinning in water, making quite a racket and fail premat
Fan installed horizontally and with flex duct and inside a basement. Three major problems here:
1. Horizontal fan installation – wrong, will trap water, prematurely wear the fan out and voids warranty.
2. Installed in basement – wrong, potential safety hazard, especially with the flimsy materials used to install this fan.
3. Radon fan is attached with electrical tape to the plastic flex vent! This is very wrong, a safety hazard, could easily tear or come loose. This totally improper vent material should be PVC plastic pipe attached to the fan with heavy duty rubber couplings.
Plastic flex vent was used instead of rigid PVC pipe to vent the radon gas. This is a thin plastic with wire inside to keep it from collapsing, insulated with fiberglass and an outer layer of this Mylar type plastic. This type of duct is designed to be used primarily for bathroom ventilation fans and sometimes for HVAC heating and cooling duct runs. The EPA radon mitigation standards require that
Improperly connected radon fan. Radon fans should be attached to the PVC vent pipes with rubber couplings. Here is a radon fan at a house I inspected, where they tried to glue the fan to the pipe. This will save $15 to $20, the cost of the rubber couplings, but the fan is not properly secured. This is a safety issue, it could fall apart, it is leaking water from condensation and also leaking radon
Improper use of schedule 20 thin wall PVC pipe. In this picture I placed 35-pound weights on two pieces of PVC pipe to show the difference in strength of the pipes. The thinner pipe on left was flattened by the weight only, I did not push down. The thinner schedule 20 PVC pipe on the left is most commonly used for radon mitigation because it is much cheaper and easier to work with than the heavier
If you get a radon mitigation proposal be sure ask which type of PVC pipe they will use. Most written proposals will only say “PVC pipe” and do not designate whether it’s schedule 20 or schedule 40 pipe. These guys realize they are not using the proper pipe but will usually use the proper schedule 40 type if you insist. Most guys will also try to explain that the thinner pipe is perfectly fine. Be aware there is a reason why the EPA stipulates the stronger schedule 40 pipe be used. I have seen the thinner pipe cracked, broken and falling apart, and unglued leaking fittings in very many instances. When exposed to the sun, the thinner pipe will break down and deteriorate over time from the sun’s UV rays. Also there are several types and qualities of the thinner schedule 20 drain pipes, some of which cannot really be properly glued because the hubs fit so loosely (they are designed to be glued but to be slipped together for drainage of groundwater not for venting air), which makes for loose and leaky joints resulting in leaking radon gas best if not falling apart.
Don't be fooled by fancy graphics! Certified Inspector means NOTHING! Many of the so-called "CERTIFIED" RADON companies are doing poor and shoddy work. Don't be fooled by private entity, non-governmental certifications. "Industry" certifications carry no weight of reprisal for shoddy work. That means, unless you hire an "educated", "experienced" inspector, you're wasting your money and gambling on your health and safety.