Written on: March 25, 2019

vent pipe

Important safety reminder: Keep your vent pipe clear

When snow falls here in southern Connecticut and northern Westchester County, you probably spend a good deal of time clearing your walkways to protect your family from slips and falls (good job!). But when it comes to protecting your family, don’t neglect the side of your home, either.

The side (or back) of your home is where you may find your heating system’s vent and air intake pipes, and keeping them clear is very important. To understand why, let’s look at a few heating system basics.

Your home heating system has an exhaust (or vent) pipe; if you have a newer home, it may also often have an air intake pipe.

In most older homes, your vent pipe is housed in your chimney, where it is unlikely to be blocked by snow or other debris. But in newer houses, a vent or intake pipe for your furnace will often feed directly through an exterior wall, where it can become blocked by piled or drifting snow.

A furnace or boiler needs three things to do its job – fuel, a spark, and oxygen; your furnace itself provides the first two. In an older home, a boiler or furnace would often get enough oxygen from its surroundings to stay lit – but in newer, more airtight homes, that oxygen is harder to come by. To keep a furnace ignited, oxygen must be drawn in from outside the house; that’s what the air-intake pipe is for.

Once your furnace has enough oxygen, it will ignite and produce two things: heat and exhaust, including carbon monoxide (CO). The heat, of course, is what you want; carbon monoxide, however, can be dangerous it if is allowed to build inside an enclosed space. If your vent pipe is blocked for a prolonged period, it could create the conditions for carbon monoxide poisoning.

If the air-intake pipe is blocked, your heating system could stall or shut down as a safety measure. In many cases – especially if your equipment is powered by propane – you will need to call a professional to restart your system.

The bottom line: Keeping your air vents clear is critical to your family’s safety. The question is, how do you do it?

Three steps to clearing your intake and exhaust vents

Stay safe this heating season – contact Westmore any time if you have any questions or concerns about heating system safety.