Some people believe that opening windows during the day can reduce radon levels in residential settings. Is this true?
Opening a few windows can reduce the radon levels in your home. This is because open windows increase the air circulation in the house. This removes the radon-concentrated air inside the home and replaces it with the fresh air outside.
That is the simplest answer I can give you on this topic. If you are interested in knowing more about this, continue reading.
How does opening windows reduce radon levels?
If you already don’t know, radon gas seeps into the home through the basement or crawl spaces of your home. This happens because the house acts as a vacuum, and its negative pressure absorbs radon from the soil. The air outside your home also has some radon in it, which on average is 0.4 pCi/L. Radon levels are considered high if it is 4 pCi/L or more; the outside air contains only one-tenth of that radon concentration.
So if we are to replace the high radon air inside with the air outside, it should lower the radon levels, right? Yes, that is how this works. When you open the windows, the indoor air mixes with the outdoor air diluting the radon gas concentration inside the house.
You can also use a ceiling fan or a pedestal fan to increase this air circulation. This will reduce the radon levels in your home quickly.
How much radon can opening windows reduce?
While increasing the natural ventilation in your home does reduce radon levels, this reduction varies depending on many factors. It can depend on which windows you open, the direction and the speed of the wind, the radon levels of the outside air, etc. In truth, it is impossible to predict how much reduction in radon levels can be achieved by opening a few of your windows.
It is safe to assume that the more ventilation there is ie, the more windows you open, and the more will be the radon reduction. Opening the windows of higher floors can significantly reduce the radon levels there. However, the same can’t be said for basements.
Opening basement windows may or may not reduce radon levels. This is because increasing the basement ventilation can create more negative pressure there which will cause more radon to be sucked into the basement. So, whether the levels will reduce or not can be found out only by testing the radon levels before and after opening the windows.
While natural ventilation can reduce radon levels in most cases, it may not work for everyone. Also, there is the issue of seasons. Are you willing to keep your windows open during winter? Radon levels are the highest during winter, so it is not wise to rely on natural ventilation alone.
As mentioned before, opening basement windows can sometimes increase the radon levels in your home because it causes more radon gas to be sucked in.
Another problem is; that while opening the windows may ventilate radon out, it doesn’t prevent radon from entering the house. This means that you will be still breathing the radon gas. It is impossible to run a radon test with open windows as the test results will be inaccurate. Continuous radon monitoring devices can be used to detect the current radon levels, however, it is recommended to install a mitigation system instead of relying on natural ventilation.
Does opening a window affect radon test results?
Opening a window of your home can drastically change radon test results. Increased air circulation from the window can move the radon gas away from the test kit, and so the test kit will record lower radon levels. This method is often used to manipulate radon tests when selling a home.
If you are buying a new home, you should hire a third-party contractor to find out the radon levels in it. An experienced contractor can know whether the test is tampered with or not based on the fluctuations in the radon readings recorded in his device.
Does using powered exhaust fans reduce radon?
Using powered exhaust fans to reduce radon is a bad idea. Exhaust fans reduce the pressure inside the home by forcefully pushing the air out. This will cause the house to absorb more radon gas from the ground.
The same is true for whole house fans as well. Whole house fans act like exhaust fans. In addition, they move a larger volume of air than a normal exhaust fan thus pulling more radon gas into the house.
Some experts suggest using an intake fan or a reverse exhaust fan in the basement for radon reduction. Since these fans push air into the basement, it creates a positive pressure there all the while venting the radon-filled air through the basement windows. The positive air pressure helps to reduce the amount of radon gas seeping into the basement. This is a much more effective method than using exhaust fans to increase basement ventilation.
Ceiling fans can reduce radon levels. Ceiling fans can increase the airflow inside the room and push out the radon-contained air through the windows. A combination of open windows and a ceiling fan can reduce more radon than is possible by natural ventilation. However, its effectiveness varies with many external factors.