How to Inspect and Clean Furnace Intake and Exhaust Pipes

With winter coming, many of us are getting our homes prepared for the colder weather. While scheduling a professional furnace tune-up, changing filters, and testing smoke and CO detectors are essential, so is checking the furnace’s intake and exhaust pipes.

Often, furnace problems arise from blocked airflow in your intake or exhaust pipe. Even if your furnace seems to be working fine, it’s important to regularly check the intake and exhaust pipes.

How to Inspect and Clean Furnace Intake and Exhaust Pipes

Source: Wikimedia Commons (Author: Wtshymanski)

First, locate your furnace and find the intake and exhaust pipes. They are usually white or black PVC pipes that exit a wall near your furnace. Take a mental note of where they exit the building and head outside.

Once outside, look for the intake and exhaust pipes. They should be near where your furnace is on the inside. Normally, they are a set of curved pipes (PVC, CPVC, or ABS) near the foundation, although sometimes they are on or near the roof. In this case you will need a ladder and a helper, or just contact your local HVAC company.

The exhaust pipe should be pointing up and the intake pointing down. If your intake is above the exhaust terminal, the intake might be sucking up exhaust gases (carbon monoxide, etc.) back into the home! Sidewall vents should not be located near any doors or windows. If you suspect the ventilation pipes are improperly installed, contact a professional right away. Vent terminals must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Make sure there is a minimum clearance of 5 feet around the intake and exhaust pipes. If you have any plants nearby, cut them back and clear the area of all clutter and debris. While it may be tempting to trim or hide your intake and exhaust pipes, it can be dangerous and even illegal to do so.

Look inside the pipes to make sure there is nothing blocking airflow, such as nests, dead animals, ice, and debris.

While the pipes should be high enough off the ground to prevent snow and debris clogging, it’s a good idea to check your pipes every 2 weeks or so.

Speak with a professional to determine if vent screens are suitable for your home.

If you have any questions about your furnace or ventilation system, don’t hesitate to Ask a Champion.

A professional tune-up is essential for getting your heating system safe and ready for winter. This includes checking gas lines and vent systems, lubricating moving parts, adjusting fan belt, and much more.

We will make sure your HVAC system is running safely and efficiently year-round. Consider signing up for our Maintenance Value Plan (MVP) for regularly scheduled HVAC tune-ups, repair discounts, and much more.

Contact Service Champions today to get your heating and ventilation systems safe and ready for winter.

Related Reading