Blizzard Shuts Down Water Heater and Furnace

This is something to keep in mind the next time (or hopefully before) you have problems with a high efficiency gas appliance.
Our area was impacted by Winter Storm Vulcan last night, which left us with lots of drifts due to the high winds.
A co-worker came in this morning and told us that his on-demand water heater didn't work this morning and that they smelled gas in the basement. He got everyone out of the house and called the gas company. They came over, checked for leaks (said that they were required to) and then trudged through the snow to the back of the house to check the vent.
The snow had drifted up high enough to block the vent. The water heater would come on, try to blow the exhaust out and then shut down. Once the vent was cleared, everything worked fine.
About a half hour later, another co-worker came in and told us that her furnace stopped working just before she went to bed. Her husband checked a few things in the basement and then went outside to check the vent. Again, the snow had drifted up high enough to block the vent. Once he cleared the snow, they had heat again.
We should all remember that during a significant snow event we should keep an eye on the exhaust vents for our furnaces, water heaters, dryers, etc. If you are going on vacation, instructions should be left with someone to have them check the vents if you think they are low enough to be impacted by drifting snow.
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On 3/13/2014 11:02 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote: ...

Good point of emphasis, I hate the horizontal at the ground exhausts for such reasons as well as aesthetics. I tried like the dickens when we put the new furnace in to figure out a way to get the stack out the roof but just was no way and the cost of the approved piping in the chimney was prohibitive so let him do that for the main floor unit.
There shouldn't have been any gas, though...it should've known not enough airflow to prevent trying ignition. That sounds like a failure in control logic to me.
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On 3/13/2014 11:43 AM, dpb wrote:

Luckily for me, my vent is located in an area that collects very little snow, but if any did accumulate, I'd spot it immediately.

It's not just the furnace and water heater vents you have to monitor, it's the pressure regulator vent on the gas meter as well. It's very small, so piled up snow or ice on the meter could block that vent. When that happens, either the gas service will shut off or, more dangerously, you can get gas accumulating indoors. For that reason, our local utility installs small roof-shaped caps on their meters to prevent snow or ice accumulation on the pressure regulator vent. Even then, we are cautioned to keep the gas meter shoveled out as additional protection.
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On 3/13/14, 12:02 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:
<snip>

Is there a reason these vents are not run up thru the roof, especially in Snow Belt areas ??
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On 3/13/2014 12:55 PM, Retired wrote:

Mostly cost and convenience. I had two units installed in our building at work and vents both are over 8' high. It is really not that hard and the cost is minimal.
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It's not always that easy, especially in an older residential building. For example, my house was built in 1956. Back then the plans were drawn up to account for the furnace and the chimney, maybe even the water heater. Window placement, siding, etc. didn't need to be taken into account since everything vented through the chimney.
Fast forward ~40 years and I decided to put in a high efficiency gas furnace. The furnace has to go in the same spot as the old one - unless I want to have all of my ducts redone - but now we have to vent it through the basement wall - unless I want to have my chimney relined.
Now we have to deal with proximity to windows - unless I want to have my windows moved - and any other code related issues regarding the placement of the vent - unless I want to alter other physical aspects of the house just to accommodate the vent.
In my case, the vent ended up high enough not to be an issue with snow since I have a walk out basement, but we did have to take the kitchen window into account and angle the pipe away from the furnace so it came out of the house far enough from all windows to meet code.
When a house is designed with the furnace, water heater, dryer, etc. initially accounted for, the code requirements, aesthetics, etc. can be built into the plans. In an older home, the retrofit can be problematic. Many times, with your typical below grade basement, the vent ends up very close to the ground not only because that's where the rim joist is, but also because of windows, doors, etc.
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:30:43 +0000 (UTC), DerbyDad03

And the new furnaces canNOT vent through the chimney????? How come?
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On 3/13/2014 5:11 PM, micky wrote:

Chimney needs some ammount of heat to keep the draft going up. The high efficiency devices dump cold flue gasses, that won't keep the thermal draft.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

When our furnace got upgraded, only thing chimney is venting is water heater. Code required B-vent liner from heater to the top end of chimney whose opening got much smaller now. They had to push down the one piece liner from the roof all the way down to basement.
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Retired wrote:

It is possible but costs more than shortest route horizontal. Our vents are well protected in the back side of the house away from drift path.
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On 3/13/2014 4:48 PM, Tony Hwang wrote:

Costs more, and some times the extra length requires larger diameter pipe. More elbows and more length, means larger diameter. The tech sheet with the appliance should have a chart.
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:02:04 +0000 (UTC), DerbyDad03

This is why God gave us chimneys that come out of the roof.
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wrote:

chimney - if the chimney is not used for anything else like a fireplace.
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On 3/21/2014 5:03 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Ought to be possible to run PVC up a chimney, if you observe the max length, and number of elbows.
And if the chimney isn't cooking hot from some other flue gas, like 70% gravity draft furnace.
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 17:19:08 -0400, Stormin Mormon

burner is on - otherwize known as "forced draft" appliances..
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wrote:

both can vent separately through the chimney.. You cannot share a condesing (forced draft) and a non-condensing device in the same chimney. With a non-condensiong (medium efficiency) furnace and a regular water heater they can chare a "b-vent" liner in a chimney.
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