Ahrens has certified staff member for detecting radon

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey HVAC technician Seth Cordes holds his recently acquired certification for radon mitigation and one of the devices he uses to detect radon in houses.

NEW ULM — Ahrens Heating & Air Conditioning now has a certified staff member for detecting and mitigating radon.

HVAC technician Seth Cordes earned two certificates, one in mitigation and one in detection, after 50 hours of classes at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

“Come January 1 (2019), it is mandatory that you have to have your license,” owner Wade Cordes, Seth’s father, said. “So everybody around that has been doing it that does not really know how because they do not have the training will not be able to anymore.”

The Minnesota legislature passed the Minnesota Radon Licensing Act in 2015, which requires the certification. It was changed twice in the last two years to push back the effective date.

Radon testing generally works by getting test kits and leaving them for a period of time in the lowest livable space in a house, often the basement.

Seth uses three-day devices that are also certified. Equipment also has to be certified each year before a professional can get their two-year certifications.

Homeowners can test their home themselves with kits that can be purchased in various places. Most of those kits will not be certified.

“They work but they are not reliable and we cannot go by that, we would still have to use ours,” Seth said.

Testing is a good idea to get started. It is important to test as soon as possible. Ahrens offers free tests with mitigation work.

“Once the mitigation system is in and radon is lowered, it is recommended once per year to be retested, forever,” Seth said.

Ahrens will then retest the home after some time has passed to allow the radon to leave. Mitigation generally prevents radon from entering a home.

“Typically it is just ventilating underneath the concrete,” Seth said. “Basically putting underneath the concrete under vacuum pressure.”

Radon seeps up into homes through the ground where it is generated by the decay of naturally-occurring uranium.

Seth will usually put a vacuum system in by the footings that support a structure and pump the air outside.

It is not always that easy. Some houses with additions might have to have multiple systems installed, as the footings might cut off airflow.

If there is water beneath the house’s concrete, it is virtually impossible to properly mitigate, Seth said.

Radon is a radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer, only behind smoking cigarettes. It is the number-one cause for nonsmokers.

The gas is virtually everywhere, but becomes more dangerous in higher concentrations. Houses with concentrations of four picoCuries or higher must be mitigated.

A Curie is an international measurement of radiation. A picoCurie is one-trillionth of a Curie.

In Minnesota two out every five homes have concentrations of radon that pose a significant risk. In Brown County, 76 percent of homes have a concentration of four PicoCuries or higher, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota has an unusually high amount of radon which is compounded by homes being more sealed off to stay warm in winter, causing higher concentrations of radon.

As a side note, Ahrens is participating in Heat Up Minnesota, where participating companies give a free heating system to a nominated individual.

The company is asking for people to nominate someone in the New Ulm area either in need or deserving of a free heating system.

To nominate an individual go to heatupminnesota.org. To contact Ahrens call (507) 354-2217 or go to ahrensheating.com.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.


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