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The Home Inspection Professionals in Binghamton, New York

Members of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Proudly serving the Southern Tier of NY and Northern Tier of PA since 1989.

Contact Information:

Phone:
607-773-1519

Fax:
607-773-4731

E-Mail:
office@professionalhome.com

Address:
1278 Vestal Avenue
Binghamton, New York   13903

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Serving Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Cortland, Tompkins, Susquehanna and Bradford Counties

Radon

Professional Home Inspection Service inspectors are certified radon measurement technicians in New York and Pennsylvania and have performed many thousands of radon tests.  All testing is performed in compliance with EPA testing protocols.  Professional Home Inspection Service is a NYS Environmental Laboratory, certified for the use of Sun Nuclear continuous radon monitors.  Our dedication to quality, and the extremely rigorous quality control requirements of the laboratory approval program, assure our clients the most reliable testing available.

Radon is a naturally occurring soil gas which the EPA has concluded is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in America, second only to smoking. Through their research the EPA has set 4.0pCi/L (Pico Curies per Liter) as the “action level” for residential exposure. If you test a home following the approved protocol, and you receive a radon average at or above that level, the EPA recommends that you fix the house. Statistics provided by the State Health Department show that roughly one out of three houses in Broome and Tioga counties tests above the EPA action level for radon.  See below for a radon concentration map provided by the NYS Department of Health.

radon map

You can see by those statistics that there are thousands of homes in our area with radon levels above the EPA action level. Fortunately, radon is relatively easy to correct in our homes. To understand how we get rid of radon, you first have to understand why radon enters our homes. Radon enters the lower levels of our homes because it is being drawn in from the soil below. This is primarily because warm air is constantly rising out of the lower levels of the home. This leaves these rooms slightly depressurized compared to the outside. It is this slight negative air pressure which draws radon into the home. In order to counteract this action a standard radon mitigation system is designed to create more suction under the concrete slab floor than the basement is naturally exerting. (click for radon mitigation system examples)

Radon is very common in our area and many homes already have mitigation systems installed. Please call us if you have any questions. Our quotes for radon mitigation systems are free.

Radon Facts

  • Radon is a radioactive gas that is a decay product of uranium in the soil.  Uranium has a half life of 4.6 billion years.  Uranium decays to radium, which decays to radon, which has a half life of less than four days. Radon daughters (products of radioactive decay) continue the decay process in rapid succession, potentially in our lungs.  Each decay process results in the release of radiation.
  • Radon migrates into homes, primarily due to stack effect.  Warm air rising in the house creates a negative pressure at the floor that pulls radon in from the soil below.
  • 4 pCi/L is the cut off line for radon in homes in the US.  It represents 2.2 decays per liter of air per minute. 
  • One in 3.5 homes in our area has an elevated radon level.
  • 55% of our total radiation exposure on average is from radon.
  • 4 pCi/L of radon represents 35 times the maximum radiation exposure allowable at the fence of a nuclear power plant.
  • Radon does not build up in closed houses after the 1st 12 hours.  Houses average 1 complete air change per hour, and a legal minimum of .35 changes per hour, or one complete air change every 3 hours.
  • Opening windows can increase or lower radon levels, due to stack effect.
  • Radon on the 1st floor will be one third to one half levels in the basement on average.
  • Radon is higher in winter, fluctuates per hour, and per day, but should be the same from year to year, unless the house has been modified.
  • Why is radon higher in some areas than others?  Gravel and loose shale allow the radon to move through the soil.  Clay and dense sand block the movement of the radon gas.
  • The “Citizen’s Guide to Radon” is different than the “Homebuyers and Sellers Guide to Radon”, resulting in a lot of confusion.  “Citizen’s” recommends retesting when results are between 4 and 20pCi/L for verification, whereas “Homebuyer’s” recommends fixing the problem at 4 and above. This is designed to expedite real estate sales.
  • 4pCi/L is an arbitrary cut off, but 20,000 to 30,000 lung cancer deaths per year on average in the US are attributed to radon.  Radon is a Class A carcinogen.  Every scientific study undertaken on the health effects of radon supports that conclusion. 
  • New Jersey set the radon cut off level at 2 pCi/L.  Canada’s cut off level was approximately 10, but was changed within the last couple of years to 5.4.
  • It does not make sense in a real estate sale to retest for radon if the levels are only marginally high.  A retest with a different result does not resolve the issue; it only delays finding a solution.   
  • Where to test for radon: EPA says “test in the lowest level living space, or area that could be used as living space without major renovation.  Per a separate letter to measurement technicians, the EPA clarified that the choice of location is dependent on the intended use of the buyer in a real estate sales situation.
  • All mitigation contractors are not created equal.  Cheaper is not better.  Some contractors advertise low prices, but the systems are not fully warranted, and often cost extra after the initial installation fails to reduce levels sufficiently.
  • One local installer does not typically test radon levels after completion and tells clients that you have to wait a month after installation to test. EPA says you need to wait only one day.
  • Systems must exhaust above the roof line, and the fan must be above the living space or outdoors. 
  • Passive systems almost never work.  They can’t overcome stack effect, (the normal draw of warm air up through a house).  Active systems use a fan to overcome stack effect.
  • Myths:       
  • House on a slab will have no radon
  • Walk-out basement equals no radon
  • Old farm house equals no radon
  • House on crawlspace equals no radon
  • House too new equals no radon

(The only houses that are absolutely unlikely to have elevated radon are those with a fully open crawlspace, meaning built on piers and no enclosure.) 

  • Closed house conditions are required 12 hours prior to testing and during the minimum 48 hour test period, except ordinary entrance and exit.  This includes garage doors if the garage is a tuck under type.  It is okay to run AC and interior fans during a test. 
  • If a homeowner can’t fully meet the EPA closed house protocol, we may do a test anyway, if our client agrees, and we believe that the test will provide useful information. 


Professional Home Inspection Service is a New York State Certified Environmental Laboratory, #11795.