Winter reminder: Don’t forget to clean, inspect furnace pipes

Heavy snowfall can cover your furnace pipes, leading to carbon monoxide entering your home. Maleeha Sheikh speaks to a Toronto woman about a life-saving reminder and gets tips from Toronto Fire on keeping your home safe in the winter. 

By Maleeha Sheikh

How do you keep your home safe after a heavy snowfall, similar to the winter wallop much of the GTA experienced on Monday?

A Toronto woman is thankful for a simple reminder from her niece — to check her furnace pipes, which were entirely blocked by snow. The result could’ve been deadly.

“She texted me this morning, saying that her husband wanted her to alert the family to double-check their exhaust pipes for the furnaces, to make sure they weren’t blocked by the snow,” says Etobicoke woman Gerry Frampton.

Frampton said that she saw that much of the pipe was covered when she went outside. When her husband went out 15 minutes later to clean it, it was completely hidden. He eventually found it and got rid of all the ice and snow.

“We don’t have snow usually that comes that high,” Frampton adds.

Deputy Fire Chief Larry Cocco with Toronto Fire Services says it’s imperative to clean snow and ice buildup around your furnace vents.

“A lot of homes are heated with natural gas and more modern furnaces and gas-fired appliances, or what they call direct vent. They’re no longer venting up a chimney that goes through the roof. They’re actually vented through the side of your home in a small vent. There are two purposes of it – it brings in clean fresh air to allow combustion. It also allows the combustion gases to be removed from your home,” says Cocco.

If they are blocked, that creates a big problem that can quickly happen on a day like today.

“The furnace or the gas-fired appliance won’t operate properly and can allow the buildup of carbon monoxide or the actual combustion process will start to seep into your home and carbon monoxide is very dangerous,” adds Cocco.


Etobicoke woman Gerry Frampton (left) is grateful to her niece for reminding her to clean the furnace pipes today. Courtesy: CityNews submission

Toronto Fire Services (TFS) received two calls on Monday where carbon monoxide alarms occurred because of blocked vents. The deputy fire chief says significant snowfalls like this don’t often happen, which is why this is a timely reminder.

Frampton is forever grateful for that reminder from her niece and has since been passing it on to family and friends.

“I’m very thankful that my family reached out and mentioned it. If they hadn’t sent that text message, would my husband and I even be here?” Frampton tearfully tells CityNews.

TFS says if you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide (CO), everyone inside the home should get outside. Call for help once you’re outdoors and stay there until emergency personnel arrives. The poisonous gas is produced when fuels — such as propane, gasoline, natural gas, heating oil or wood — do not burn completely in fuel-burning appliances. These include furnaces, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves, barbecues, portable heaters and generators, or vehicles.

Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, nausea and dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and loss of consciousness. Also, don’t forget to have a working carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home and a smoke alarm.

With files from Lucas Casaletto

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