With a High-Efficiency Furnace, Homeowners Must Regularly Care for Sidewall Venting

by Greg Leisgang on November 11, 2013

Posted in: Furnaces

Wintertime here in the greater Cincinnati area can get mighty uncomfortable and worrisome if your high-efficiency condensing furnace goes out or begins operating unsafely. Less serious, but still no fun, is when your heating system starts running less efficiently and your energy bills go up. One of the most important ways to avoid these problems is proper maintenance, including basic sidewall vent upkeep.

What are sidewall vents?

They’re essential furnace safety features to direct potentially harmful combustion gases outdoors. Super-efficient condensing furnaces have two heat exchangers — a primary and a secondary. That additional heat exchange component allows the condensing system to get more heat out of the same amount of fuel than a traditional heating system does. In order to make its superior combustion process work, high-efficiency condensing furnaces need sidewall vents.

Combustion gases remain longer in the high-efficiency furnace, traveling through its two heat exchangers. Gases have time to cool off somewhat before being released outside and aren’t vented through your flue or chimney. In the condensing furnace, sidewall vents handle this function, preventing carbon monoxide (CO) gas from building up in the house. You can see how a neglected sidewall vent becomes a home safety issue.

Proper sidewall vent care

  • Check vents and piping often, especially after heavy snow, to ensure that there are no obstructions.
  • Find sidewall intake and outlet vents by tracking from the condensing furnace to the place where ductwork/pipes penetrate a wall to the outside.
  • Install caps or screens to protect vents and pipe ends that are exposed outdoors. This keeps out some debris and even small animals that might block off the ductwork with a nest, for example.
  • Clear any drifted snow, ice formations, wind blown branches and lawn debris from the sidewall vent.
  • A broom works well to clean off accumulated debris from vent pipes. Don’t scrape with a snow shovel since heavyweight tools can damage vents.

Do you need more information about finding and protecting sidewall vents or maintaining a high-efficiency furnace? Call the experts at JonLe Heating & Cooling. We're happy to help Cincinnati area homeowners.

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