Snow in your vent pipe could kill you


Traditional vent pipes are on the roof. - NATHANIEL HOMIER
  • Nathaniel Homier
  • Traditional vent pipes are on the roof.
If you are a normal human being who is not in the heating or construction business, you probably haven't spent a lot of time thinking about "vent pipes."

But you probably should, because they can kill you. Traditional vent pipes β€” which allow furnaces and other household appliances to, uh, vent β€” are located on the roof. But more efficient furnaces and appliances tend to vent out of a wall, low to the ground. While this apparently saves on the energy bill, those vents are vulnerable to being stuffed full of leaves, birds' nests or snow.

When a furnace vent becomes clogged, it might just turn off your furnace. Which is a bummer. But it also might pump carbon monoxide into your house and kill you and your family. 

So it's a good idea to check the vents. Also, get a carbon monoxide detector. They cost as little as $20. Here's the official warning from the county:

Citizens Reminded to Make Sure High Efficiency Furnace Vent Pipes Are Clear of Snow

Drifts Can Block Side Wall Ventilation Pipes Critical for Safe Operations of Modern Gas Appliances

El Paso County, CO., February 3, 2015 – El Paso County joins with the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department in reminding area residents with modern high efficiency furnaces in their homes and businesses to make sure the outside vent pipes for those appliances are not blocked by snow and ice.

High efficiency furnaces are not installed using the old style metal vent pipes that extend through the roof. Instead, they use shorter PVC (plastic) pipes typically vented through a side wall near the ground. While these installations offer great efficiency, the side vent pipes can be covered by snow drifts or clogged by snow and ice, leaves, animal nests or other debris. Obstructed vent pipes can result in the furnace shutting itself down, or in the worst scenario, deadly carbon monoxide could be released into to your home or business.

Side wall vent kits that provide added protection against vent obstructions are readily available through local HVAC contractors and online suppliers. But even with a vent kit in place it’s a good idea to check to make sure that snow has not drifted up against the outside wall where the vent pipes come out.

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