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Why Keeping Your Vents Clear Is So Important

clear vent pipe new yorkWhen snow falls here in Sullivan County, most of us rush to clear the walkway and driveway to keep people out of harm’s way. But that’s not the only protective clearing you should do after a storm.

Keeping your HVAC system’s vent and air intake pipes free of snow and debris is critical to the safe and proper function of your furnace or boiler; when those pipes are blocked, they can create problems that range from a heating system shutdown to a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide gas.

How Your Heating System Works

To understand why these problems can happen, you’ll need to know some heating system basics:

  • A furnace or boiler needs three things to do its job – fuel, a spark, and oxygen; your heating equipment provides the first two.
  • In an older home, your equipment 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 lit, 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 exhaust. The heat, of course, is what you want; exhaust gases, however, can be extremely dangerous. In a properly functioning heating system, carbon monoxide (CO) and other harmful gases are vented outside your home via an exhaust pipe. But if that pipe is blocked, those gases can build up inside your home, putting you at risk for dangerous or potentially even deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If the air-intake pipe is blocked, the risks are less dire, but still problematic, especially if temperatures are dangerously cold: 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.

Three Steps To Clearing Your Home’s Vents

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

Take these three steps:

  1. 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.
  2. Mark them – Once you have found your vents, mark their location so they can easily be found under heavy snow.
  3. Clear them – When snow falls, clear your vents using a broom.

Stay safe this winter – contact Black Bear any time if you have any questions or concerns about heating system safety in your Sullivan County home!