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Improperly Installed Radon Systems

Wisconsin Residents: Is saving $25 – $50 worth it?

It’s true that you get what you pay for. No matter where in Wisconsin you call home – Appleton, Kaukauna, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac or surrounding areas – the examples below show what can happen when your Radon mitigator lacks experience. The installer of this system, a local competitor, is certified to install Radon mitigation systems, but has not had the benefit of mentorship from another installer with experience. The homeowner saved approximately $50 by using this company. But to bring this installation up to State of Wisconsin electrical code and recognized Radon venting standards, it will now cost him another $150 or so. Let’s look more closely at what’s wrong with this installation.

A Closer Look: Improperly Installed Radon Systems

Missed vent pipes.From a distance, the photo on the left may seem to portray an OK Radon system installation. But, if you look closely, the vent pipe does not meet the minimum requirement of being two-feet above a window that is within 10-feet of the vent. The danger here is that Radon gas can easily travel from the end of the vent pipe, right into the window.

Electrical fire hazard.The photo on the right shows an electrical hook-up done improperly. You cannot have an outside fan on a electrical cord. For one thing, there are no cords rated for sun resistance, so this is a fire hazard. And for another, you cannot run an electrical cord through a wall to plug it in, in this case in the basement.

Angled fan.The photo on the left clearly shows that the exhaust fan was installed at an angle. These fans need to be installed level from front-to-back and side-to-side to get the proper life expectancy out of them. The most frequent cause of premature fan failure is a fan installation that is not level. The bearing in the fan will get off balance, cause a lot of noise and then die.

Also, there is no cosmetic flange installed over the pipe going through the wall to cover up the caulk and protect the home from the elements.


But, He Said He Was Certified!

But he said he was certified!This home had its system installed in 2009 by a local competitor who is certified to install systems.  But, that is not good enough. Being certified does not mean you know how to install a complete system properly. The home is on the northwest corner of Prospect and Memorial Drive in Appleton. You can see this system as you head north on Memorial.

What’s wrong with this install?

  1. For the vent pipe to be properly installed, it must be either 10 feet horizontally away from an opening or two feet above the opening. This keeps high concentrations of Radon gas from re-entering the home.
  2. They did not use a proper electrician, or get a permit (which is required in Appleton).
  3. The vent is facing the back of the fascia board. This will rot the wood as the moist air coming out of the vent hits it 24/7.
  4. Would you want your system to look like this?
  5. If you drive by now, you will see that the vent is above the roof (not by us)
  6. I was in this home after the fact. The system could have been installed to another location outside.
  7. The System For This Home since this picture was taken Has Been Fixed and brought up to Standards! And has low Radon

Radon Systems Don’t Belong in Front of Your Home!

Front of home install.This next installation was for a Real Estate transaction. As you can see below, they violated the first common sense rule of mitigation, do not install the system in the front of a home! The pipe is coming out of the front of the home, plus the installer used black rubber couplers to install the fan.

Front of home installation picture 2.The photo to the left shows that they transitioned from a 3″ pvc pipe into a 4″ downspout material. It doesn’t look too bad from the soffit area up, except that the downspout isn’t straight/plumb. Also because they mis-measured or didn’t drill a pilot hole for location, the piping came out quite a way from the side of the home. They installed a good length of pipe to get to that wall, which is also not straight.

We looked at the whole system including the basement, which to be honest, I would make my installer redo it if they installed it that way. My camera’s flash was not working so the remaining photos did not turn out.

This system could have been routed through a crawlspace out to the right side of the home, towards the back corner where it would not be very noticeable, and done in this manner it would not have had to go up past the second floor roof. This would have been much better than going out the front. The system could not have gone through the garage.

Front of home installation picture 3.Front of home installation picture 4. These final two pictures show how the majority of the system looks. Would you want to have the system installed this way on your home?

When we install a system we have the attitude of “where would I install the system if this was my home.”

Near the Front Door?

Improper installation.This system was installed on a home in Darboy. I just happened to see it when driving back from an estimate. All I can say is “wow!” Who would install a system up the front of the house, near the front door?
In this instance, they ran the system off the sump pit, thinking that’s how to install a Radon removal system. This home has gravel and drain tile under the slab. The system could have been installed anywhere in the basement and probably through the garage.

In addition to the poor choice of location, the vent pipe doesn’t extend above the roof. In this application, moist air hitting it 24/7 will ruin the shingles and possibly get into the roof as time goes by. Would you want your system to look like this?

Passive vs. Active Radon System Installations

Poor sump pump seal.My only concern is with ACTIVE systems that are improperly installed, unless a passive would be set up so badly that it could cause a health risk. Photos on the page demonstrate improper and dangerous radon system installations.

Look at this picture. A piece of plastic placed over the sump pit and taped to the slab, then a Radon system installed off the pit. Really? This was done by a certified company, if you can believe that. This home is in Beaver Dam. We ended up replacing the whole system, but the fan.

Allthough I no longer install passive systems in existing homes (only new construction), I have installed a few where the vent pipe is routed out to ground level. These systems are set up so they could be made into active if needed some day. But, venting a sump pit or slab at ground level poses no health concerns because there would be almost no concentration coming out of the pipe.

Passive systems newly installed in existing homes just don’t work. For a few extra dollars you can rid the home of Radon, and hopefully reduce the moisture in the basement.

Radon is pushed up from ground pressures and sucked up from the vaccuum of a home. If a pipe is routed to the sump pit or slab and vented to the outside, there is a chance that it might increase Radon levels. Why? Because if it’s windy outside and air is pushed into the vent pipe, more pressure can be exerted under the slab, thereby increasing the amount of Radon in the home.

Radon Fans Don’t Belong in the Basement

Improperly installed.Most improper systems have the Radon fan in the basement or some other livable space in the house. This is a huge problem, and totally against EPA standards. It’s easier to install a system like this, and it will get rid of the Radon in the basement. But what if the fan had an undetectable leak on the exhaust side, one you couldn’t hear? This is called mining Radon. The home would not have just a little more Radon, but could have hundreds of Pico curies. How would you like to be exposed to that? Remember the EPA wants homes to be below 4 pCi/L, and if possible below 2 pCi/L.

Watch Where it Vents!

The system below was installed by a certified company out of Fond du Lac. This home is in Beaver Dam. The customer told me that the installing company would not come back and fix their system unless they were willing to pay more money. What a shame.

Another huge problem is to vent an active system at ground level or less than 10-feet from grade. Most of these systems also have the fan in the basement. Studies have shown that re-entry is a serious risk. If a window would be opened, or if someone is in that area they could be exposed to very high concentrations.

Even if the vent pipe is at 10-feet from grade, it might not be right. I have seen homes where the vent is 10-feet off the ground, but there is a window within 10-feet of it, or even right above it on a second floor. Re-entry could still happen in this case.

Dangerous installation.The photo on the right illustrates another type of improper venting of a Radon system. This set-up is dangerous because Radon gas would be vented directly over the head of anyone standing on the deck. You should treat the deck as the ground. The vent should be 10′ above it. Why the installer did it this way is beyond reason. They could have gone straight up from the fan and above the roof. We ended up dismantling the whole system and re-installing it.

At Radon Specialists of Wisconsin, our mission is to provide the absolute best quality work at the best possible price thereby eliminating the chance of Lung Cancer due to Radon exposure to the largest number of people. We take our work seriously because your health is at stake. Learn more about how we do business here.

Here are some more pics of system’s we run into.