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Important Winter Safety Reminder: Keep Your Vent Pipe Clear

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Your home heating system works hard to keep your family safe from the elements through the long, cold Connecticut winter. But those elements can still cause some problems in your toasty CT home if you’re not vigilant about clearing your property after a snowstorm.

That’s because your heating system’s vent and air intake pipes can become blocked by snow, a problem that can create safety risks for your family. To understand why, let’s look at a few heating system basics.

How heating system vent pipes become unsafe

  • 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 many older homes, the vent pipe is contained within the chimney, where it is unlikely to be blocked by snow or debris. But in newer houses, vent and intake pipes will often protrude through an exterior wall, where they can become blocked by snow.
  • A gas furnace or heating oil furnace needs three things to do its job – fuel, a spark, and oxygen; your furnace itself provides the first two. In an older home, a 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 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 propane 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

  1. Find them – To find your vents, go to your furnace. If your system vents through the chimney, you will see an aluminum pipe coming off the back of your equipment; if your system vents through an exterior wall, you will see two 3-inch diameter PVC pipes (intake and exhaust) coming off the top. Simply follow those pipes to see where they leave the building.
  2. Mark them – Once you have found your vents it is a good idea to mark their location so they can easily be found under heavy snow.
  3. Clear them – Shovel around your vents, but use a broom to clear the vent itself to prevent damage to your equipment.

Stay safe this heating season – contact Hocon any time if you have any questions or concerns about heating system safety, or if you need a heating oil delivery or propane delivery in Connecticut.