Radon & Central Pennsylvania – What You Need to Know

“Home inspection; elected. Pest inspection; elected. Radon inspection…hey Sarah, should we elect or waive to complete a radon inspection?” My eyes grow quarter sized from across the Keller Williams conference room table of my eagerly excited clients, writing an offer on their first home. Before I answer, here are the facts that every home buyer in Central Pennsylvania should consider before purchasing a home in Happy Valley with regard to radon.


What the Heck is Radon?

Radioactive, atomic number 86, radon is an odorless and tasteless noble gas.  According to the EPA, radon is attributed to the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, only second to smoking.

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Page 7, Section 12 Buyer’s Due Diligence/Inspections (9-16), Lines 337-347 regarding radon in the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors ASR form.  Standard Agreement of Sale of Real Estate used to negotiate the terms of a residential home purchase in the state of Pennsylvania.

Originating from a natural decomposition of uranium and radium in the ground, radon can penetrate a structure (your potential abode), through cracks and any apertures in the foundation.

Testing for Radon

4.0 picoCuries/liter constitutes an elevated level of radon exposure within a dwelling.  During your inspection contingency period, on the road from contract to closing day, a radon test will be set by a person certified by the Department of Environmental Protection (more than likely your selected home inspector or a company that specializes in mold and radon).

The test is typically appointed in the basement (if applicable) and collected within a minimum of 48 hours to ensure a proper reading.  During this 48 hours, all windows and doors remain closed.

Radon in Centre County

Centre County is located within EPA Radon Zone 1, a county “with predicted average indoor radon screening levels greater than 4 pCi/L”.  That being said, I’ve witnessed readings registering from 0.02 all the way to 150.00 pCi/L!  As my Penn State Psych 002 professor once said, “Correlation does not mean causation”…however, I see a strong correlation between Victorian homes in Bellefonte and higher registered radon readings.  Factually, radon can register above 4 pCi/L just about anywhere in Centre County, but it shouldn’t be cause for concern in moving forward in the acquisition of a home.  Radon can be remedied.

Radon Mitigation Systems and Cost in Central PA

So your home registered over 4 pCi/L; what happens now?  Your radon professional will make a determination on the most efficient system based on the layout of the home and the severity of the reading.  Homes registering just over 4-10 picoCuries will typically require a simple fan mitigation.   In my experience, homes logging in over 10 picoCuries may deem additional piping and fans to ward off elevated levels of the element.  The most extreme mitigation arrangement I’ve encountered was a two-story, Victorian with a 150 picoCurie radon reading.  This home required two industrial sized pipes, running the entirety of the basement with two fans to accomplish a score under 4.

Radon Test provided by Enviro Management

Fans.  Piping.  Radioactive Gas.  Cancer.  “Sarah, you’re starting to scare me, how much is this going to cost?”.

Before you panic, radon is another element (pun intended), that you can negotiate in your offer for a home.  Most everything is negotiable in the state of Pennsylvania, however, it is customary (in my experience selling real estate within Centre County) to negotiate that the buyer and seller split the cost of the radon mitigation system, if necessary.

The average cost, dependent on the system your new domicile will call for, within Centre County Pennsylvania range from $400.00-$1450.00*.

Knowing the facts, it’s up to the consumer as to whether you should elect to have the radon levels tested or waive your opportunity.  Always consult with your realtor in making this decision, review the statistics and speak with a local professional.  A recommended, community resource pertaining to radon is Jim Stein at Enviro Management.

Additional Resources:

EPA Radon Guide

*Based on current pricing from local radon professionals and the average pricing spectrum I’ve encountered in my professional experience.  Prices may vary contingent on your new home and radon reading.