What Colorado Home Buyers Need to Know about Radon
Governor John Hickenlooper has declared that January will be Radon Action Month in Colorado. But, in all fairness, radon is a year-round issue.
What the heck is radon anyway?
Radon is the other odorless, invisible gas that can kill you, albeit much more slowly than carbon monoxide. According to EPA Estimates, Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. According to Carolyn Koke, director of market development for the AccuStar and RadonAway brands, radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year–more than drunk driving, falls in the home, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Colorado, as many as 50-75% of homes are believed to have radon levels in excess of the EPA recommended action level of 4 picocuries (pCi) of radon per liter of air. Radon is a radioactive natural gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Colorado shows higher radon levels than many states “because radon is a byproduct of the decay of uranium and it exists in our soil everywhere because we live in a highly mineralized state,” said Warren Smith, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Winter is the perfect time to test your home for radon, according to Chrystine Kelley, radon program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Testing your home for radon is simple and works best when all your doors and windows are closed,” Kelley said. “That’s why January is a great time to test, during National Radon Action Month.”
Radon is the other odorless, invisible gas that can kill you, albeit much more slowly than carbon monoxide.
If you are in the process of buying a home in Colorado, you can absolutely test for radon in your new home during the inspection period. However, there are some considerations to testing for radon during your real estate transaction…
- If you test for radon during your inspection period, home inspectors will typically use a 48 hour radon test, which can be less accurate than the 3-month to 1-year radon test kits. Testing the home over a longer time period will give a far better picture of the true radon levels of the home, as the radon could be unusually high or low over any given 48 hour period.
- The best time to test for radon is in the winter, when the home is all sealed up. A 3-month month test during the winter months will give the most accurate results to demonstrate how much radon is in your home, while a 1-year test will give you a true picture of how much radon shows up in your home over the course of time. Radon simply dissipates with air, so if doors and windows are kept open in the summer, radon levels will be lower or nonexistent.
- If the home is currently inhabited by the seller while you test for radon, you have to trust that the seller is keeping the doors and windows closed during your test. If you are purchasing a home without air conditioning in the summer time, the seller would have to be willing to be unbearably hot for 48 hours on your behalf. In a perfect world, all sellers would happily do this. However, since a possible outcome of the seller’s discomfort would be that the home tests high for radon and now they are being asked to purchase a radon mitigation system for you, some sellers may not be compliant with radon testing.
- If you are considering testing the home for radon during the inspection period, the question you should ask yourself is:
- Even if this home tests high for radon during the inspection period, would I refuse to purchase this particular home if it tests high for radon and the seller refuses to install a mitigation system? (Keep in mind that it’s likely that other homes you may desire may also contain high radon levels with sellers who refuse to install a mitigation system.)
- While 48-hour radon tests typically cost about $100, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offer a FREE test kit to Colorado households, which is likely to be more accurate. Long-term radon tests also tend to be less costly than the 48-hour tests.
Let’s recap. If you are questioning, “Should I test my home for radon?” The answer is definitely, “yes, yes, and yes.”
The question is: should you test the home for radon before you have purchased the home or after you purchase the home? The benefit of testing for radon before you have purchased the home is that you have a chance of getting the seller to install a radon mitigation system on their own dime. Of course, this is at the seller’s discretion and many sellers may not be interested in this expenditure.
What do you do if you already own your home and your home tests high for radon?
If radon levels are high, you can reduce them, but it’s not a DIY job. Certified mitigation providers may use several methods, including sealing cracks in floors and walls and installing underground pipes and an exhaust fan, to lower radon levels. A radon mitigation system in Colorado usually costs about $800-$1,200 unless difficult design problems are encountered. If your water comes from a private well and you found a radon problem when you tested the air in your home, you can also consider testing your water, although radon in water is typically less of an issue than radon in the air.
Here is the link for a FREE RADON TEST KIT: https://environmentalrecords.colorado.gov/HPRMWebDrawerHM/RecordHtml/403292
If you would like to learn more about the testing and mitigation of radon, here is a video from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that is accompanied by scary and ominous music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1OcA1N2Tig&feature=youtu.be