Snow and Your High Efficiency HVAC System

January 23rd, 2018

As yet another winter storm arrives and drops snow on us, clearing your driveway should not be your only priority. Making sure that your air-intake/exhaust pipes for your furnace are clear ensures your furnace can function properly, and vents exhaust fumes from your unit out of your home! A high-efficiency furnace works by taking fresh air from the outside for combustion and sucking it through an intake port located on the side of the home. This intake pipe is supposed to be installed above the snowline, but if it was improperly placed or is blocked because of snow build-up in and/or around it, furnace malfunctions can occur.

If either the air-intake or the exhaust vent becomes blocked the system will stall, either because it will be starved of oxygen, or because it’s built-in safety mechanism will shut it off. If the blockage is in the air intake the system will shut down, and the property will cool down 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 worrying. 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 odorless, colorless, and tasteless, but in sufficient concentration can be harmful to people and animals.

Do you know WHERE your exhaust/intake pipes are for your furnace? These pipes will be non-metallic (likely plastic) and they will attach to your furnace and end on an exterior wall. Once you’re all bundled up and have your shovels ready, find where you think the pipes lead to and start digging. You’ll want to clear all snow from around the area to ensure you don’t have a continuing issue. Once done, check and see if there is anything clogging the pipe(s).

When you’re done clearing the snow, your furnace should begin running on its own. If it doesn’t begin running immediately, you may need to start it yourself (using the starting instructions attached to your furnace). Still not working? Give us a call and we would be happy to come out and take a look and see how we can help! (262) 554-6083