Updated: September 18, 2023
Routine maintenance is essential in upholding your heating system’s efficiency. Keeping the snow out of the furnace vent is one of the critical maintenance tasks you can’t afford to ignore. The buildup of condensation can wreak havoc on your HVAC system. In this article, we’ll explore steps on how you can keep snow from out of your furnace vent.
Condensation in High Efficiency Furnaces
A modern condensing furnace utilizes two combustion stages to attain up to 90% AFUE fuel efficiency. Unlike conventional heating systems, condensing furnaces have a second heat exchanger. When the exhaust gas passes through the element, it absorbs much of the remaining heat.
Because they can absorb most of the heat from the exhaust, it prevents waste and is much more efficient. However, condensing furnaces have one drawback: the discharge of exhaust gases is hardly ever warm. The cooler fumes allow faster condensation. For that reason, high-efficiency units should have a specialized venting system in place during installation.
In a conventional system, the flue can be metal since the gases are still hot when they exit the exhaust. On the other hand, modern condensing furnaces have a plastic vent pipe in place of metal. The fact that the vent is plastic is an indication of the low temperature coming from the exhaust.
Typically, mid-efficiency furnaces are not as prone to condensation. However, if the flue’s placing or sizing is incorrect, it will trap vapor, and moisture will accumulate.
Give Your Furnace Space
A clogged vent pipe can cause problems within your furnace and may pose a health risk in your home. That’s why it’s important to clear the area around your outdoor unit of snow and debris. Homes with the vent pipe going through the exterior walls rather than the chimney are more vulnerable to condensation.
When the vent pipe is blocked by snow, it will shut down your system as a safety measure. You may have to call a furnace emergency service in the middle of a cold winter. Furthermore, when the blockage is around the exhaust pipe, it may introduce harmful gases into your home.
At Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, we recommend checking your carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide detectors before winter. During the cold season, your furnace will be running most of the time. You want to ensure that the safety alarm will alert you if there is a risk of a hazard.
Debris and Ice Formation
When the system expels exhaust fumes from the furnace, it meets the cooler air outside and condenses. The process is much faster for higher-efficiency heating systems because of the cooler fumes. However, other factors, such as debris obstructions, can accelerate the process of condensation.
Remember, once the twigs and leaves sticking from the vent pipe come into contact with vapor, condensation happens to form water vapor. For that reason, you should clear the area around the exterior unit of any debris. Children like to push sticks into the pipes, so it is advisable to ensure there is a barrier around it.
Improper Vent Pipe Installation
Clearing the area around the outdoor unit will minimize snow accumulation and prevent blockages. However, a substandard installation process can create chronic issues that could eventually damage your furnace. High-efficiency furnaces can be prone to condensate buildup unless the installation is thorough.
During furnace installation, the system must discharge exhaust fumes efficiently. Otherwise, the intake vent can draw the gases into it, which can cause ignition problems. The warm air will melt the snow and pull in vapor, which will end up freezing inside the pipe.
Excess moisture may also cause the condensate drain to clog. This will trip the pressure switch. The pressure switch ensures the right amount of air gets into the unit for combustion. If there is a blockage, your furnace will produce an unstable flame.
During installation, components that produce condensate should be on a slope to allow the moisture to drain. Such components include hoses connected to the furnace, the condensate drain and vent pipes. Your central air conditioning system can also generate moisture that may travel to the furnace.
In high-efficiency furnaces, the trick is to ensure the discharge of exhaust is as fast as possible. The plastic vent pipes must be of the right size to minimize the amount of condensation. Therefore, it is essential to have a terminating hub to direct the flow of exhaust fumes.
A hub at the end of a vent pipe should point downwards to ensure there is no risk of exhaust intake. Snow buildup will trigger a lockdown mechanism. Routine maintenance of your furnace before winter should unearth potential installation issues or equipment faults.
Inconsistencies on the venting material may develop due to poor installation. An opening in the PVC piping will impact the exhaust’s discharge, which may allow toxic gases to accumulate. Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating ‘s staff in Hanover will perform thorough tune-ups and repairs to keep your home safe.
Steps to Prevent Snow Buildup
There are several steps you can take to minimize the accumulation of condensation in your heating system. Besides clearing the area around your outdoor unit, you can install a canopy to protect it from the snow.
You can also use a vent screen to keep snow away from the unit. But the screen should be of the right size and grade. If you happen to use one with thick material, it could have the opposite effect. The spacing of the mesh openings needs to be at least half-an-inch wide. Our factory-trained technicians can offer reliable solutions based on the manufacturer’s specifications.
However, you shouldn’t place a cover right on top of the condenser. Always keep the clearance at least two feet from the unit by removing obstructions like shrubs or branches. Also, to maintain airflow within the system, change or clean the filter at least once a month.
It is also advisable to ensure that any exposed piping has insulation. When the water freezes, it can burst your pipes, causing leaks that release moisture. Inspect the insulation on outdoor plumbing or in areas such as the attic, and ensure it is not worn out.
When clearing snow, do not use boiling water to melt the ice. When the temperatures are in the extreme, the hot water will freeze faster than warm water. You could end up increasing the amount of snow around the outdoor unit. You may use warm water as long as it is not cold outside.
Professional Furnace Vent Installation and Maintenance in Hanover
You need to schedule a routine checkup of your furnace to ensure its drainage system is working. Your heating system generates condensation that should be drained away to prevent faults within the system. Our technicians will clean components and check for any anomalies that may promote moisture buildup.
We offer quality custom ductwork in Hanover, MD. The ductwork has a huge impact on the airflow and efficiency of your furance. Our certified technicians can troubleshoot air quality concerns, energy losses, leaks, and moisture accumulation. Our HVAC company also offers comprehensive heating services and cooling services.
You can depend on the furnace service from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating for fair pricing and quality craftsmanship in Hanover. Call us today to schedule an appointment with our top-rated team.