When snow falls here in Central Massachusetts, one of the first things you probably do is clear the front walkway to keep people from hurting themselves (awesome job!). But it’s what you do on the side of your home after a snow storm that could save your family from a far more dangerous threat.
That’s where you may find your heating system’s vent and air intake pipes – two tubes that are critical to the safe and proper function of your furnace or boiler (if you have an older home, your vents may be in your chimney). When those pipes are blocked, they can create problems that range from a heating system shutdown to a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
To understand why these problems can happen, let’s take a look at some heating system basics:
A furnace or boiler needs three things to do its job – fuel, a spark, and oxygen; your furnace or boiler itself provides the first two.
In an older home, a boiler or furnace would often get enough oxygen from its basement surroundings to stay ignited – but in newer, more tightly constructed homes, that oxygen is harder to come by. To keep a furnace ignited, your heating system may need to draw in oxygen 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 carbon monoxide (CO). The heat, of course, is what you want; carbon monoxide, however, can be extremely dangerous. In a properly functioning heating system, carbon monoxide (CO) is harmlessly vented from the exhaust pipe. But if that pipe is blocked, that CO can build up inside your home, eventually causing dangerous or potentially even deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
If the air-intake pipe is blocked, the consequences are less dire, but still problematic: without oxygen, your heating system will stall or shut down as a safety measure. In some cases, you will need to call a professional to restart your system.
The bottom line: Keeping your heating system air vents clear is critical to your family’s safety. The question is, how do you do it?
How to clear your intake and exhaust vents
To clear your intake and exhaust vents, follow these three easy steps:
Find them – To find your vents, go to your boiler or 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.
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.
Clear them – Shovel around your vents, but use a broom to clear the vent itself to prevent damage to your equipment.
Stay safe this winter – contact us any time if you have any questions or concerns about heating system safety in your MA home. Pioneer Oil and Propane – Serving our Worcester-area neighbors since 1957!