A graphic with the text "radon" written repeatedly superimposed above an illustration of the some houses

The presence of radon is unpredictable—within the same neighborhood, one house might be subject to radon infiltration, whereas the house right next door may be completely free of radon.

The gas can seep through holes and cracks from the foundation of the building. Moreover, it’s invisible and cannot be detected without proper testing. 

Given the toxic health effects of radon, you might be on the lookout for a system that helps eliminate this harmful gas. Well, the ERV and HRV can be one such system.

In this article, we will look at whether energy and heat recovery ventilators help eliminate radon and other harmful gases. 

Do ERVs and HRVs Help with Radon?

As they have somewhat separate functions, we will examine the role of ERVs and HRVs in reducing radon levels separately. 

Do ERVs Reduce Radon?

An ERV can reduce radon levels by adding fresh air and creating positive air pressure. Negative air pressure in lower levels of buildings produces a force that pulls soil gases inside the structure. If the negative air pressure can be reduced, the radon levels will also decrease. 

In addition, supplying fresh air to provide a healthy indoor environment can also make a major impact. Thanks to these two features of an ERV, it can be an excellent solution for reducing odors along with other indoor air pollutants such as radon, tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, pesticides, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide. 

Nevertheless, it is difficult to quote specific efficiencies for different types of pollutants. The fact that stale indoor air is constantly being replaced by fresh outside air is your assurance that the air inside your home is pollutant and contaminant-free. 

Several companies, such as National Radon Defense, have installed an ERV as a solution where conventional active soil depressurization was not cost-effective or feasible. Such situations can occur in earth homes or houses with HVAC returns under the slab, difficult slab accessibility, inaccessible crawl spaces, and other challenging situations.

The energy recovery ventilator has proven to be an excellent option in commercial buildings and schools as well. A lot of people prefer the benefits of using an ERV over conventional radon mitigation systems. 

Do HRVs Reduce Radon?

An HRV system can ventilate all or part of the building and even reduce radon levels. Nevertheless, they are more effective for radon reduction when used to ventilate only the basement. Plus, these systems are more costly and not generally installed particularly for this purpose.  

HRV systems are commonly used in newer and tightly-built buildings. Tightly-built buildings reduce energy costs; however, without proper ventilation, they trap humidity along with pollutants such as radon that can lead to general discomfort, aggravate allergies, and other health problems. Additionally, moisture damages windows and other parts of the building structure. 

HRVs replace moist, stale, radon-contaminated indoor air with fresh outdoor air. These systems help keep energy costs low by preheating the incoming air during winter and precooling the incoming air during summers. 

An energy recovery ventilator exchange component and vents on a building's exterior.

One thing to consider is that a particular house had increased levels of both moisture and radon even though an HRV system was already installed.

It was found that the air intake vent was clogged, and the system had to be adjusted and balanced to operate at full capacity. Through servicing, the radon level was decreased from 9.7 to 2.0—a major change. 

This point shows it is extremely important to keep your HRV system clean and service it regularly. If it isn’t, it can actually aggravate a radon problem. 

All in all, HRVs can exhaust stale air and other contaminants apart from radon. The drawback is that it can increase cooling and heating costs significantly and has difficulty reducing radon levels higher than 12–15 pCi/l.

Benefits of Using an ERV or HRV to Reduce Radon 

Here are some benefits of using an ERV or HRV to reduce radon and other harmful chemicals in your home. 

Improved Health 

Perhaps the biggest advantage of having an ERV or HRV installed in your house is to keep you and your loved ones safe. Radon is a class A carcinogen, meaning there’s scientific evidence that it causes cancer in humans.

The EPA estimated that more than 21,000 individuals in the US alone die due to radon-induced lung cancer every year. Thus, as the leading cause of lung cancer (second only to smoking), radon presents a massive risk to homeowners. 

Perhaps the scariest thing about radon is that it is invisible. Unlike smoking, where almost everyone knows the dangers and can sense the smoke, radon cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. Radon’s decay chain is what poses a risk to human lungs, and the radioactivity that’s emitted is what leads to cancer. 

Thanks to the emergence of new technology, radon can now be detected with digital testing monitors and test kits. This means you can get your house tested easily and at an economical price.

Do not put your or your loved ones’ health at risk by neglecting this toxic and cancer-causing gas. Get your home tested and if the results reveal that the radon levels in your home are higher than 4.0pCi/L, install an ERV or HRV system to eliminate this problem. 

Higher Property Value 

Many homeowners choose to install an ERV or HRV in the midst of selling as a condition of the sale. This means that many new home buyers are looking for houses that have low levels of radon before they move in. 

Luckily, radon can be effectively eliminated from a property by installing an ERV. While the initial cost of installing an energy recovery ventilator might be high at $2,000, keep in mind that this investment can help to increase your home’s value.

For instance, according to the US Green Building Council (USGBC), healthier and green buildings can increase return on investment by 19 percent and building asset value by 10 percent

Once installed, an ERV will constantly flush radon out of your home. Thus, when the time comes for radon inspection, you will not have to stress about failing the test. 

Other Radon Remediation Methods

There are several other methods you can use to reduce radon levels inside your house. Certain techniques prevent radon from entering your house.

For instance, the soil suction method stops the gas from entering your home by drawing it beneath the house and venting it through a single or multiple pipes to the air above the house, where it’s swiftly diluted. On the other hand, methods such as ERV or HRV reduce radon after it has entered. 

In this section, we will look at some of the most common radon remediation methods apart from an ERV or HRV. 

1. Soil Suction 

In houses that have a slab-on-grade foundation or a basement, radon is generally decreased by one of four kinds of soil suction. These include drain-tile suction, block-wall suction, sump-hole suction, or sub-slab suction. 

Active Sub-Slab Suction 

Active sub-slab suction, also known as sub-slab depressurization, is the most common and generally the most dependable method to reduce radon.

Pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the soil or crushed rock below. These pipes might be inserted underneath the concrete slab from outside the house.

The location and number of suction pipes required depend on how easily air can move in the soil or crushed rock and the strength of the radon source. Generally, one suction point is sufficient. 

A radon vent fan attached to the suction pipes extracts the gas from underneath the house and releases it into the outdoor air while creating a vacuum or negative pressure below the slab. 

Passive Sub-Slab Suction

Passive sub-slab suction is very similar to active sub-slab suction. The main difference is it depends on air currents and natural pressure differentials rather than a fan to extract radon from beneath the home. Nevertheless, passive sub-slab suction is usually not as effective as active sub-slab suction in minimizing radon levels. 

Drain Tiles

Drain tiles direct water away from the home’s foundation. Suction on these tiles is usually effective in lowering radon levels. 

Sump-Hole Suction 

Sump-hole suction is essentially a variation of drain tile and sub-slab suction. When a house with a basement is equipped with a sump pump to eliminate excess water, a lid can be applied to the sump so that it continues to remove water and work as the location for a radon suction pipe. 

Block-Wall Suction 

This kind of suction can be used in basement houses that have hollow block foundation walls. Block-wall suction eliminates radon and depressurizes the block wall. It is generally used along with sub-slab suction. 

2. Sealing Cracks

Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of radon mitigation. Sealing the cracks minimizes the flow of radon inside your house, thus making other radon-reducing methods more cost-efficient and effective. 

The EPA doesn’t recommend this method alone to lower radon because, by itself, sealing hasn’t been shown to decrease radon levels consistently or significantly. It’s quite challenging to locate and permanently seal the places from where radon is entering. 

3. Room or House Pressurization 

This method involves the use of a fan to blow air into the living area or basement from either outdoors or upstairs. It aims to create sufficient pressure at the lowest level indoors to prevent radon from entering the house. 

4. Natural Ventilation 

By opening doors, vents, and windows on the lower floors, you increase the ventilation inside your house. The increase combines outside air with inside air that contains radon and can consequently lead to lower levels of radon.  

Comparing Different Radon Mitigation Methods

In this section, we will compare different radon mitigation methods so you can determine which one is best suited to your needs. 

MethodTypical Radon ReductionInstallation CostsYearly Operating CostsRemarks
Active Sub-slab Suction 50 percent – 99 percent$800 – $2,500$225 – $500The top method suggested by the EPA.
Passive Sub-slab Suction30 percent – 70 percent$550 – $2,250Some energy lossesRecommended by the EPA for new building construction.
Drain Tile Suction50 percent – 99 percent$800 – $1,700$50 – $200Ideal method if drain tiles create a whole loop around the basement.
Sump Hole Suction50 percent – 99 percent$800 – $2,500$50 – $250Works best if air can easily move easily beneath the slab to the sump and if drain tiles create a whole loop.
Block Wall Suction50 percent – 99 percent$1,500 – $3,000$150 – $400Only suitable for basements that have hollow block walls. Requires all the openings to be sealed properly. 
Caulking  0 percent – 40 percent$100 – $600$0Blocks radon voids. Does not stop radon infiltration through concrete. Used alongside other methods.
Sealing Cracks 70 percent – 95 percent$400 – $700$0Needs to be used along with other methods.
Room/House Pressurization50 percent – 90 percent$500 – $1,500$150 – $500Reduce convection but doesn’t minimize radon diffusion
HRV25 percent – 50 percent for whole house; 25 percent – 70 percent for basement $1,200 – $2,500$75 – $500 for constant running Best for a tight house. It might lead to back-drafting. 
ERV50 percent – 75 percent$2,000
Works well for rooms with poor ventilation and fairly low-level concentrations of radon. 

Last Few Words

While ERVs and HRVs can help reduce radon levels in your house, they might not always be the best solution if your house has significantly high concentrations of radon. Nevertheless, if tests reveal that radon concentration in your house is relatively low, you can install an ERV or HRV as an effective method of radon mitigation and also benefit from fresh air inside your house. 

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