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Protect your home from radon poisoning

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You can't see it, smell it, touch it or taste it, but radon is present in the soil of all 50 states, and it could be seeping into your home. The naturally occurring gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America – 22,000 people die of radon poisoning each year! The good news is that every home can be equipped with a mitigation system that will alleviate the problem.

"As a homeowner, you should know the radon level of the home before you even move in. You can test it by hiring a professional or by doing it yourself – by buying a kit online or at your local hardware store. They range in price from $15 to $25," explained Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Radon comes up through the ground and penetrates the cracks and crevices in your home's foundation or basement walls. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if your radon level tests at 4 PCL or higher, you need it reduced.

"Some people think that sealing the cracks will be a good mitigation of the radon. That might be part of the process, but it's not the whole process. It'll be important to hire a professional to do the project correctly," Hicks said.

Look for a contractor that's certified by the state or the National Radon Proficiency Program. They should start with a thorough inspection and then recommend a system designed specifically for your type of home and the ground it sits on.

"In a house such as this, which is older, there's no drain tiles, there's no sump pit, so we know it's going to be packed dirt, rock, stone, clay; and it's going to require a higher pressure fan, instead of a higher volume fan," explained radon specialist Damon Miller.

"The fan is a key component of that system, and it's going to run all the time, so you want to know what the life expectancy and the warranty is on that fan," added Hicks.

Expect to pay from$ 800 to $1,500 depending on the size of your home. Placing the system inside your home rather than outside in the open will also add to the expense.

Hicks says to have an agreement in writing that says what the contractor will do if the system doesn't bring the level down below four. If there's an additional expense, you want to know that up front. And because the fan will be constantly running, you may see a slight increase in your utility bill as well.