Technical Papers

How Do Ventilation Systems (ERVs) Lower Radon?

Thursday, February 16th, 2023 by Evan Schmitt

Radon is a radioactive gas that can seep into buildings and homes, often leading to harmful levels of exposure. Radon exposure has been linked to lung cancer, and it is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to reduce radon exposure, one of which is through the use of an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV).


An ERV is a type of mechanical ventilation system that is designed to provide fresh air to a building or home while simultaneously expelling stale, radon filled air which can lower radon levels by about 50-75%! The ERV works by using a heat exchanger to transfer heat and moisture from the outgoing air to the incoming air. This helps to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature and humidity level while also reducing the amount of energy required to heat or cool the incoming fresh air.


ERV is an ideal solution for homes located in regions with multiple slabs and mild radon levels. ERVs should be installed by a professional to ensure that the system is properly balanced, and that the air intake and exhaust are located in areas that allow for effective radon reduction.


It’s important to note that while ERVs are an effective means of reducing radon, they are not a complete solution. The most effective way to reduce radon exposure is to install a sub-slab depressurization system to suck the radon out underneath the foundation before it comes into the home. A well as sealing any entry points helps to prevent radon from entering the building. It's also important to regularly test for radon levels to ensure that they remain below hazardous levels.


A home we recently mitigated in Huron, OH had levels starting out at around 8 or 9 pCi/L. And the way this home was constructed made mitigation a little difficult. It had two slabs, a main one and then an addition that made up about 1/3 of the ground level floor. The addition had sub-slab ductwork which was severely impact the effectiveness of our mitigation efforts. We used a depressurization system to treat the main slab which lowered the levels to around 4 pCi/L and then we added an ERV which brought the levels even lower to around 2 pCi/L! This is a prime example of using an ventilation system to greatly reduce radon levels in a tricky home.


In conclusion, an ERV is an effective method of reducing radon levels in a building. It works by expelling stale, radon-contaminated air and replacing it with fresh, outdoor air. While ERVs are not a complete solution to reducing radon exposure, they are an effective tool in combination with a depressurization system, sealing entry points, and regular testing.

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