Snow Can Stop a Furnace Cold!

Michigan winters can be brutally cold at times and full of snow.  When temperatures drop low enough to make a snowman shiver, having your furnace stop working can be a nightmare!

Have you ever gone to bed in a toasty warm home and woken up to find it cold enough to keep ice cream frozen on your kitchen counter? After putting on your slippers and wrapping up in a blanket, make your way to the thermostat to confirm what you already know; it’s cold in the house.  A hand in front of your heat vent tells you that the furnace is not on and a peek out the window lets you know that Mother Nature has given you the gift of a white blanket of snow.

Whether the snow is delivered from the sky or shoveled from your sidewalk and driveway, if your furnace exhaust pipe is blocked by frost, ice, or snow, your furnace will stop working.  Why does the furnace malfunction or turn off when the exhaust pipe is blocked?  It is a safety mechanism in many furnace designs to protect you and your family.  The furnace exhaust pipe functions as a release of the carbon monoxide that is created while heating your home.  Without sufficient ventilation, carbon monoxide could build up inside the house, causing headaches, nausea, and disorientation in your family, and possibly even death.

This is a fix even the most mechanically-challenged person can take on successfully!  Put on your hat and gloves because it is time to clear your furnace exhaust pipe in 4 easy steps:


Step 1: Locate your furnace exhaust pipe – Most times the furnace exhaust pipe is a PVC (white plastic) pipe that extends from the side of the house near where the furnace is.  If possible, find and make note of the pipe during the warmer months.

Step 2: Remove snow blocking pipe – Always use your hands to move snow away from the opening of the pipe to avoid damaging it.

Step 3: Check the interior of the pipe for ice or frost build up – Use a light to look inside the pipe.  If it is blocked, there are a couple of things you can do to clear it out.  If there is a thin layer of ice, use a putty knife to gently scrape it away.  If you see a larger build up of ice, you will need a heat source to melt it away. The standard hair dryer in your bathroom will likely do the trick!  Use gloves to protect your hands from the heat and always be aware of possible electrocution risks and don’t use the hair dryer in the rain or during an active snowfall.

Step 4: Restart Your Furnace – Once the exhaust pipe is cleared, restart your furnace according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  If the blocked furnace exhaust pipe was the cause of the malfunction, your home will be warm and comfy soon!


If these steps don’t solve the problem, it is time to call in the professionals.  EMG Mechanical is ready to come to your home to diagnose the issue, give you a quote on the repairs, and get your furnace up and running.


** Carbon monoxide detectors save lives.  Make sure you have them installed on each level of your home, near the bedrooms, and always change the batteries! **