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3 Tips To Keep Your Furnace Drain From Freezing

by Harvie Simms

Living in the Northeastern United States often means that you endure harsh winter conditions. Temperatures drop suddenly, ice storms might hit, and these weather anomalies can take a toll on the performance of your furnace. One thing you need to be aware of when maintaining your furnace through a Northeastern winter is the potential for your furnace's drain to freeze. The condensate line (commonly referred to as the drain) plays a critical role in the function of your furnace, and when this line freezes you might find yourself without access to heat.

Here are three tips you can use to ensure your drain doesn't freeze during the coming winter.

1. Insulate the exterior condensate line.

Water that condenses as your furnace heats your home is directed outside through the condensate line. To ensure that your furnace can produce the heated air you need to stay warm when winter hits, you should insulate the exterior portion of the condensate pipe. A great way to keep the drain line from freezing is by applying a product known as heat tape.

Self-regulating heat tape can keep your condensate line protected from the cold when the temperature stays low for many days in a row. The tape varies the amount of heat it produces based on the exterior temperature, and it can be overlapped to increase protection.

2. Shorten your exterior drain pipe.

Another simple way to help prevent your furnace drain from freezing during a cold Northeastern winter is to shorten the exterior pipe that is exposed to the elements. Since most condensate lines are made from PVC pipe, a saw designed to cut through plastic can be used to reduce the length of the pipe running from your home's exterior.

The less pipe water has to run through as it drains from your furnace, the less time there is for the water to freeze and create a blockage while it is still inside your exterior drain pipe.

3. Reroute your drain into an existing interior drain.

Rather than having your furnace's condensate run directly from the furnace to your home's exterior, you can eliminate the need for an external pipe with the potential to freeze by rerouting the drain into an existing interior drain.

If you have a sink or washing machine near your furnace room, the condensate line can easily be tied into the drains for these plumbing fixtures, eliminating the potential for your drain to freeze. Be sure that you hire a boiler and furnace professional to reroute your furnace drain to ensure that it complies with plumbing codes in your area.

Using some simple techniques like the application of heat tape, shortening of the exterior drain pipe, and rerouting the drain to an existing interior drain you can prevent your furnace drain from freezing up next winter.  

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