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Ice Jams of Radon Systems

Friday, February 1st, 2019 by Jen Herbrandson

radon vent ice jam forming

The design of most radon mitigation systems pull damp air from under structural concrete slabs and crawlspace liners, thus in cold temperatures, this may results in ice jams or freezing at the vent pipe. 

To explain further; radon gas travels upward & into a home from deep within the soil.  Radon mitigation systems operate continuously, by actively drawing radon gas from underneath concrete slabs, from sump pit basins and from underneath crawlspace liners.  Moisture vapor and other soil gases also travel up through a radon system.  There are many benefits to a radon system pulling the moisture vapor and soil gases out from under your home; like lower relative humidity, reduced odors and cleaner air.  The only downside of a radon system drawing out moisture vapor is the potential for ice jams and freezing in cold winter temperatures like we are currently experiencing.

Condensation drip will be a larger problem if the radon contractor used gutter downspout for the vent pipe, versus 40 gauge PVC pipe

What can be done to prevent freezing radon system vent pipes? 
(Do NOT unplug your radon mitigation system due to an ice jam as it will void your warranty.)

The first recommendation we have for preventing vent pipe ice jams is removing, (or not installing to begin with) varmint guards, vent covers, critter guards or exhaust caps.  These are natural places for ice to start forming from the condensation collecting within the system.  We recommend letting the air flow freely up out of the vent pipe.  Since air is flowing out of the system, varmints and debris have a hard time entering the system, although certainly possible. 
Do not use a gutter downspout for your vent pipe.  Although some people feel that gutter downspout looks aesthetically more appealing, it’s not a good idea because the seams don’t seal well and the lack of insulation causes more condensation to form inside the pipe.
Drain the condensation below the fan.  One option for removing some of the condensation and lowering the risk of freezing is to drain the condensation below the fan for exterior mounted systems.  (This requires a certified radon experts and will result in a water puddle forming below the fan in warmer months and an icicle to form in colder months.)
Heating the pipe with an electrical warming coil. Another option to reduce the chances of ice jams is to wrap the vent pipe with an electrical warming coil and plug that into an exterior outlet.  This can work in some situations if the heat is strong enough.  The downside is aesthetics and electricity consumption.
Wait for it to thaw.  Most people simply wait for warmer weather and let the system thaw out on its own.  

Who should I contact for help?

Call Innovative Basement Systems at 877-365-0097 or click here to request assistance.  Innovative Basement Systems’ Radon Technicians, Chad Matthews and Travis Oetterer, underwent numerous days of training to further their radon education and become Indoor Air Quality Specialists with National Radon Defense.

Innovative Basement Systems is family and veteran owned.   





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