Renovation & Design

Monitor furnace filter to avoid a frozen home

Lack of attention to winter maintenance can cause chilling issues

Laurie Mustard / Winnipeg Free Press

On the roof of your home you have a sewer vent that must remain open.

Laurie Mustard / Winnipeg Free Press

A badly clogged furnace filter, a lot of it due to the two dogs and four cats.

A few days ago, when it was minus eight million degrees outside, twice as cold as that overnight, and exponentially colder when you factor in the wind chill (can you tell I’m not fond of winter?)...I awoke to a very chilly house.

I immediately asked myself, "What might be the cause of this?"

I’m pretty quick.

I grabbed my robe and toddled on down to the thermostat to begin my investigation. "Yes, I have the thermostat set at about 20 C, so why can I see my breath?"

Things that make you go "hmmm."

Then I remembered this happening once before, only with the air conditioning instead of heat, which for some reason just couldn’t keep up with the outside heat to its full potential. In fact, not even close.

The problem then? A clogged furnace filter. "Hmmm," I said, making an immediate executive decision, "I better go check that out."

So I moved the temperature setting way down, turned the fan to "auto", then went and stood by the furnace until the fan stopped, allowing me to pull out the filter. Of course it got hung up on its crisscross back supports and wouldn’t pull out of the furnace without an aggressive yank on my part, spewing dust as it released — a nasty thing to do to my allergies. I used the same bad word as I had before.

Upon inspection, oh yes, the filter, which I had put in just a couple of months before (I’d like to say a month, but I think that would be "fake news"), was very coated with "stuff" and allowing very little airflow through.

I felt immediate shame at having let my furnace fan down, which was screaming at me, "We’ve got no air captain , no air, do something!!!!"

So I installed a new filter, turned everything back on, and lo and behold, the thermostat needles were soon once again in sync, and the house toasty warm.

Moral of the story, "Monitor your furnace filter or risk the chance of burning out your furnace/fan motor and freezing to death in front of your dog, whose fur will save him."

Then he or she will eat you, for which the poor dog will then be executed, and all because you didn’t check your furnace filter regularly. See how far something like this can go?

Moving along, and "owning" the fact that my negligence had resulted in furnace abuse on my watch, I wondered what else I might have been remiss in checking to keep the front lines supplied with everything required to keep winter out and my expensive heat in.

I remembered a draft I’d been noticing under a door. Could the "whatchamacallit" that seals the bottom of the door against Arctic breezes entering one’s home need attention? I "lay me down" in the dog and cat fur coating the rug in front of the door, camera in hand, and with a very chilly breeze fogging my glasses, tried to see if there was light coming through under the door.

I saw the light, and it wasn’t God.

Repair needed, STAT!! I tried to get a pic to show how large the gap is, but couldn’t get the lens close enough to the floor to get a good angle. Suffice it to say, I will be replacing this door weather-stopper asap. Very strong breeze coming in there... with no storm door to slow it down. Bad Laurie. More shame.

And now, skipping around like the good ADHD creature I am, let’s talk toilets for a moment. How’s yours been lately? Does it make funny gurgling noises when you flush? Is it slow to flush? If so, the good news is, it may have nothing to do with your diet.

Y’see, on the roof of your home you have a sewer vent (plastic pipe sticking through the roof), that must remain open, to allow proper "flow" within the piping of your home and to allow sewer gases to escape into the crisp winter air.

Endless detail on all of the above winter maintenance is available on Google, so I won’t go into depth on it here. Having heard the gurgling in my toilet, and heard, but not watched slow flushing, I stopped while writing this column and went up on my roof to examine my sewer outlet, so to speak. Nearly frozen over. I’m talking about the sewer pipe vent... although...

Moving along, I removed the frost and ice buildup, got a good whiff of my sewer system exhaling, and headed back down to snort some Febreze. Yes, I’m kidding, don’t do that.

Hope this mid-winter maintenance tutorial leads you to a warmer, faster-flushing household, and serves as a very important reminder to change your furnace filter as needed.

Comments or feedback, love to hear from you!


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