Your furnace becomes one of the most important parts of your house as soon as weather starts getting colder. It will provide your family with reliable heat all through the winter season, keeping your house comfortable and warm as long as it’s in good condition. While regular furnace checkups before the season are important, homeowners shouldn’t neglect the furnace during the winter either. Ice forming on the furnace’s exhaust vents could not only prevent your house from heating up, it could also damage the furnace and lead to an expensive furnace repair down the road. Check up on your furnace regularly, and call an HVAC contractor for a free estimate if you believe your furnace may be in need of repairs, and keep an eye on your furnace throughout the winter to avoid icy problems before they occur.
How Ice Forms on Vents
Ice typically appears on furnace exhaust vents due to moist, condensed air. The air released from furnaces condenses quickly because it is already cool, creating heavy moisture that can freeze inside pipes and vents before it has the opportunity to fully leave the furnace system. As furnaces continue to operate, more heavy air is created, causing further frozen blockages. This is a very common furnace repair issue, particularly with high efficiency furnace systems, which use condensed air in their regular operations to cycle cold air out for warmer air to heat your home.
In many instances, ice formations can be caused by poor installation of the furnace system. This can include sloping or sagging vent pipes, pipes that are too long, improper pipe positioning, excessive elbows used in constructing the system, incorrect length of pipes, or improper exhaust drainage systems. A professional HVAC contractor can conduct a proper furnace repair assessment to identify potential problems, and make necessary adjustments to ensure that your pipes are securely installed.
Problems Caused by Icy Vents
Vents blocked by ice can cause several issues within your home. Many furnaces, when hampered by an iced vent, will simply shut down. This is to help prevent further damage to the furnace system, but it can leave you cold and uncomfortable. Before restarting your system, you will need to take the extra time to remove the ice from your vents. Having the system checked for further damage may be necessary if it continues to shut itself down after restarting.
Ice over the vents may also cause carbon monoxide to build up inside the house, as it will be unable to leave through the blocked vents. Because carbon monoxide is completely odorless, it can be difficult to identify. However, this gas can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, an upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Carbon monoxide monitors throughout your home can help you address this danger before it becomes toxic, and regularly checking your furnace vents for ice should be a standard protection as well.
Furnaces work hard to continue operating, even if their vents are iced. This can cause excess vibrations in the pipes that could damage them. These pipes may break and leak, damaging your system and releasing chemicals into your home. Replacing pipes can be expensive, and scheduling proper furnace repair or maintenance may take a few days.
Preventing Ice Formations
Preventing ice formations can save your time, money, and stress later in the season. Ensure that your furnace system has been constructed properly, with pipes that are the correct length, design, and level above the ground. Good piping can help air leave your home more quickly, preventing it from building up and icing over inside the vents. Sagging pipes, another common cause of iced vents, can be supported with straps or hangers. An HVAC contractor can evaluate your furnace system and provide advice on what may need to be repositioned or replaced in order for your system to work safely.
Vents that are positioned too close to the ground, or intake and exhaust vents positioned on different sides of the home, can cause unequal wind pressure on the pipes and allow ice to enter the system. You may need to reposition your vents and reroute your furnace piping to the new vent locations in order to prevent ice from continuing to form.
During the winter months, ensure that the exhaust vents are clear, with no snow or debris blocking them, as this can cause water to enter the system and freeze there. Ensure that the area around and below your furnace vent is cleaned to prevent anything from entering the system. A daily check in can help ensure that your furnace continues heating your home and prevent a costly furnace repair later.
Solutions to Iced Over Vents
If you see ice on your furnace exhaust vents, take action right away. First, turn your system off and clear the furnace filter to ensure proper airflow once the unit is turned back on. Then, use a broom, a brush, or your hands to begin removing the ice from the vent. A shovel could break the delicate exhaust vent, so it’s important to only use softer materials. Carefully remove icicles in the area.
If you catch the problem early enough, ice on furnace exhaust vents can be a simple problem to solve. However, more extensive damage -- such as layers of ice or ice inside the furnace piping system -- may need the help of a licensed HVAC contractor, who will be able to melt the ice and evaluate your system to help prevent future damage.
Necessary and emergency repair symptoms
Speedy Furnace Repair this Winter
Speak to a reputable HVAC contractor this winter for more information about furnace repair issues, or to schedule a free checkup. Presidential Heat & Air has years of experience in helping homeowners keep their furnaces and homes safe and comfortable. The company can complete a range of other jobs, including air conditioning and heating installation and repair, ductwork, humidifiers, refrigeration, and light installation, among other services, with free estimates provided for all projects. Presidential Heat & Air serves customers in the Maryland and Washington, DC area.