The National Weather Service is predicting snowfall of between 2-3 feet for the Boston area between now and tomorrow. With predictions like that, this is prime time for furnace and heating problems, but taking a few extra precautions may help keep you warm and keep your furnace happy during what could be a historic snow event.
Keep your furnace running. This sounds like some obvious advice, but people tend to “dial down” their thermostats to save money on their fuel bills. While reducing consumption is good, a major, long-lasting snow event combined with temperatures well below freezing isn’t the time to save money.
A better approach is to keep the temperature in your home at or above 60° F. By not allowing the temperature in your home to free-fall, or to fall to a level lower than 60°F, you can help avoid frozen pipes in your walls, basements and crawlspaces. You can also bring your home back up to a comfortable temperature and maintain it more efficiently and less expensively.
If it makes you feel better, your furnace operates more efficiently when it runs regularly, and you’ll end up spending less money using this strategy than you will by shutting your furnace down when the temperature drops and the snow piles up. Speaking of snow piles…
Move your snow. If you have a furnace that direct-vents to the outside through your foundation wall, 3 feet of snow could obstruct both your intake and exhaust ports nicely. Remove all snow and ice accumulations from the intake and exhaust ports of your furnace and other gas appliances. (Don’t rely on the heat exhaust to melt the accumulating snow and ice!)
Maintain a 3′ space around the ports in all directions and check these ports regularly for obstructions. A blocked port can cause your furnace (or other gas appliance) to stall just when you need it most. It can also cause noxious fumes to collect in or around your living space.
The same is true for heat pump condensers. If you have a cold-climate heat pump (or its smaller, ductless mini-split cousin), you’ll need to keep the condenser unit very clear to ensure that the unit continues to work during the storm. Even the newest, most efficient heat pumps are not designed for these kinds of extraordinary events or for single-digit temperatures, so making sure the condenser is clear is essential for continued operation.
If you encounter problems with your furnace or heat pump during the storm, we offer 24/7 emergency service. Call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 whenever you need assistance with your furnace or other gas appliance.

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