I’ve been building homes for over 2 decades, which means I’ve come across hundreds of common issues that many builders don’t feel that they need to or want to address. One of my biggest concerns is keeping families safe in homes they can trust. Radon gas is an invisible threat to homeowners across Canada. Do you know what you can do about it?
What is Radon Gas?
Radon is an invisible, odourless, naturally-occurring gas that causes lung cancer. Radon gas is the 2nd highest cause of lung cancer in Canada, after smoking. When uranium breaks down in the soil, radon is produced. Because it’s gas, it travels easily through the ground and towards the surface.
When released into the outside air, radon concentrations are relatively low because it has open space to travel. However, radon gas can also find its way into our homes wherever they’re in contact with the soil. It can seep into buildings through cracks, pipes, and drains, and because most homes are so well insulated in Canada, it can quickly become trapped, and concentrations will steadily rise.
Is Radon Gas All Over the World?
Radon gas levels vary in different geographical regions. Canada is a country with very high levels of radon. Some provinces have levels comparable to the highest globally, like in the Czech Republic, Finland, Mexico, and Sweden.
Although some geographical regions may have lower levels than others, every province in Canada has homes with elevated radon levels. If you live in a home that has never been tested for radon, I recommend purchasing a radon test kit to measure levels. Test kits are very inexpensive and are easy to use — a small price to pay to protect your health!
If your radon test results are above the Canadian Guidelines of 200Bq/m3, you should have a radon mitigation system installed in your home. Installation typically takes less than a day and can reduce radon levels in your home by more than 80%.
What Effect Does Radon Gas Have on a Homeowner?
Every year, more than 3,000 lung cancer deaths are attributable to radon gas in Canada. Most newer homes are built to have excellent insulation to protect us from the bitterly cold winters we experience all over the country. However, well-sealed homes are a double-edged sword when it comes to radon. If you purchase a built home that does not have a radon mitigation system installed, the radon gas that finds its way into your home has nowhere else to go. Plus, new energy initiatives and efficiency systems tend to recycle air from within the house, which does no favours to radon gas levels.
I’ve installed radon mitigation systems on new builds and existing homes, and I want to stress the importance of having one. Radon gas is just that, a gas, which always finds the path of least resistance to travel. Having a ventilation system built to mitigate radon levels allows it to escape before it has time to be inhaled by you or your family, especially in winter months when doors and windows tend to stay closed.
According to Dr. Janet Gaskin, an epidemiologist at Health Canada, installing radon preventative measures in new homes reduces radon entry. She also says that, according to estimates, 453 lung cancer deaths could be prevented every year if all new homes include radon mitigation systems.
Radon Gas Extraction in New Builds vs. Existing Homes
Any existing home can have a radon mitigation system installed, but it is much more difficult and expensive to do so on a home that is already built. For reference, the cost of installing a radon mitigation system on an existing home is anywhere between $3000 and $5000. However, it’s important to note how dangerous radon can be. If you’ve tested your home and found high levels, the value of preserving you and your family’s health is priceless.
Installing a radon reduction system in a new build is much more cost-effective. All of Millenium Plus Homes’ new builds feature a fully installed active radon mitigation system with a 3D customized plate included in the home’s price, which typically equals out to around $1000. Less than 1% of new homes have a full radon extraction system, which I believe to be a problem considering how dangerous radon gas can be.
I know that with Millenium Plus Homes, I can make a difference. I want to do my part to prevent radon gas from affecting lives, and I’ve successfully been able to do so by installing mitigation systems in our homes. Even if an area has low radon levels, I would highly recommend installing a radon mitigation system.
I mean, when you think about it, is any level of radon acceptable?
The Extraction Process
We use a reduction technique called active sub-slab-depressurization. With this method, we install a pipe through the floor slab with an ultra-quiet fan attached to draw radon gas from the soil below the home and release it into the outdoors, where it is diluted to a non-hazardous level. The fan runs continuously, so the gas is drawn from the soil and never enters your home.
Some types of radon mitigation systems pose inherent risks depending on the climate you live in. I’ve seen poorly installed systems that have frozen and damaged the fan, causing the system to lose efficacy. Typically, we will install the fan indoors with a short pipe to discharge the exhaust outside near ground-level to prevent condensation and ice from damaging the fan.
There have been field test studies showing this technique is effective, which is why we typically choose to use it.
Keep Your Family Protected
For me, I value knowing my home has the appropriate features to protect my family. With Millenium Plus Homes, I wanted to make sure that any future families living in the homes I build have that same comfort. Making radon mitigation systems a standard feature of MP homes not only keeps new homeowners and their families safe, but it gives me peace of mind knowing I’ve done my part, too.