Keep your Furnace Exhaust and Fresh Air Venting Free of Snow and Debris
Last week’s big snow storm reminds us of an important tip for Ottawa Homeowners during the winter months and even during the summer.
Reliable recommends that you clear snow away from your heating system’s vents every time there is a major snow storm . Whether you heat with oil or gas, your system has an exhaust pipe. Many systems also have an air-intake pipe. Both of these pipes begin or end somewhere outside your home. In older systems the exhaust will often be led up a chimney, significantly reducing the possibility of being blocked by snow or other debris, but in newer houses the pipes typically go through exterior walls and more often than not vent through a window sill – the perfect location for snow build up.
Why is it so important to keep these pipes and vents clear of snow or debris?
If either the air-intake or the exhaust vent becomes blocked – by snow for instance – the system will stall, either because it will be starved of oxygen, or because its built-in safety mechanism will shut it off. If the blockage is in the air intake, the system will shut down, and the home will be without heat until the blockage is removed and the system can be re-fired. But if the exhaust vent is covered by snow, the problem can be more serious. The blockage might be enough to cause the system to shut down, but before that happens a snow ‘cave’ can be formed around the vent trapping the exhaust fumes – including the CO – and forcing them back into the property through cracks in the building itself. CO is odourless, colourless, and tasteless, but in sufficient concentration can be harmful to people and animals. For this reason – and because you really don’t want your heating system to fail in the depths of winter – it is vitally important to keep your exhaust vent clear.
If you don’t know where your system vents, the easiest way to find out is to look at the boiler or furnace. If it’s an older system venting to the chimney, you’ll see an aluminum pipe coming off the back of the furnace. If it’s a newer system, there’ll be two 3” diameter PVC pipes coming off the top – one’s the air-intake, the other the exhaust – follow those pipes and you’ll see where they exit the building. Please see the attached picture showing the two vents.
Once you’ve found your vents, it’s a good idea to mark their location outside so that if they do become buried in a snow storm you can easily find them.
If you have any questions about your vents, or how to find or maintain them, please call the Ottawa HVAC experts Reliable Home Environment at 613-274-3800. One of our fully licensed technicians would be pleased to help you.