What Vent Screen(s) Should You Use In Your Intake and/or Exhaust Vents?

Choosing a PVC vent screen to protect your high efficiency furnace, hot water heater or boiler should not be a complicated process. That’s why we have created the most compatible (best flowing) vent screens available. However, we do receive a lot of specific questions regarding which PVC vent screen is right for them, will they work in their furnace or hot water heater vents, how to determine the screen size needed and many other questions. Because of this, we want to devote an entire page on our website to the topic of selecting the correct PVC vent screens so that our valued customers can make an informed purchasing decision.

Wide Open Furnace Intake VentA common question that we receive is “should my intake and exhaust vents be covered with a screen?” The short answer to this question is yes. Sooner or later something is going to try to find its way into the PVC termination vents. It may be a bird, squirrel or even lawn debris like leaves. Once something enters the vent pipes, it can be costly to remove it. In fact, if you look at the picture to the left, you will see what the PVC intake pipe looks like inside a furnace. The intake vent pipe that enters the furnace is wide open and unprotected. What if a bird, chipmunk or squirrel were to enter the termination pipe from outside the home and find its way right into the furnace? Would that animal bring with it food and bedding that could ignite if it came into contact with the burners? Would the animal chew on a flame sensor, rollout switch, damage the circuit board or decide to start a family right inside your furnace? There are a lot of costly variables to consider when it comes to a wild animal entering a home or business through an unprotected PVC vent. The good news is that our vent screens are an inexpensive solution to a problem just waiting to happen.

Since we are one of the few United States based companies that manufacture both insect and rodent vent screens for horizontally vented natural gas appliances, some of our visitors do have questions about which screen is right for them. Should you get a rodent vent screen or the vent screen that guards against both insects and rodents? The vent screen that is best for you does not come in a one size fits all answer. First, you should consider your climate. Does it get below freezing outside? Next, what type of appliance (furnace, hot water heater or boiler) are you trying to protect? With your answers in mind, let’s expand a little on how to choose the best screen for your unique needs.

High efficiency furnaces utilize a two-stage burn process that creates condensation, which creates an exhaust gas that is discharged out of the exhaust vent as moist air. If it is very cold outside, and well below freezing, you don’t want to use a fine wire mesh (close squares) screen. A fine mesh screen makes it easier for snow and ice to accumulate on, which may prevent the appliance from breathing. If ice does cause a blockage, your furnace may go into lockout mode and stop operating until the problem is corrected and manually reset. If you are not at home when this occurs, imagine what would happen to your water pipes if the inside temperature of your home dropped to 20 degrees. Though a power vented hot water heater does not produce a moist exhaust, the vent may come in direct contact with snow that can melt and freeze easier on a close mesh screen. Obviously, if you live in Florida then freezing temperatures is not a concern. But for many others it must be an important consideration when choosing what type of vent screen to buy.

Comparison of Insect and Rodent Vent ScreensOur founder created discounted single and dual vent screen kits especially for those (and him personally) who reside in areas where it gets very cold. These kits include a rodent-only wide welded wire screen (2″ rodent model and 3″ rodent model) and a dual insect and rodent fine wire mesh vent screen (2″ insect model and 3″ insect model). Those who live in climates where it gets below freezing should use the wide mesh rodent screen during the cold months (late fall, all of winter and into early spring) then switch to the insect screen when daytime temperatures normalize to above freezing. Our rodent screen leads the industry by maintaining a 90% airflow rate when insects are not active and the dual insect and rodent vent screen will maintain a 70% rate of airflow during the warmer months. Having the ability to switch vent screens for seasonal use is part of the reason why we include an easily installed/removed internal wire clip with every vent screen purchased from our store. This makes it very easy to install and remove our PVC vent screens for those who need varied seasonal protection, and the internal wire clip can be reused indefinitely.

Understandably, most people want to know if our vent screens will work with their condensing furnace, power vented hot water heater or boiler. We understand that many of our customers are not professional HVAC technicians or plumbers, but many of those professionals do buy our vent screens for a reason. The reason is because our vent screens are the most compatible product on the market. What we mean by “compatible” is that most caps, guards, covers, grilles or whatever marketing name they may use typically restricts airflow by at least 40%. Keep in mind that those are rodent screens, which does not even come close to the 90% airflow we maintain with our rodent screens (our 90% -vs- their 60% airflow). A quality vent screen product should prevent restrictions and not create them, which is why we feel our design is far superior to other products.

The bottom line is that if our vent screens won’t work with your furnace, hot water heater or boiler, then what will offer better air circulation? Some appliances are more finicky when it comes to airflow, though we don’t field compatibility complaints with our vent screens because we take great care in making sure that proper airflow is maintained. For example, our vent screens are being used on Amana, American Standard, Bryant, Carrier, Coleman, Ducane, Goodman, Heil, Lennox, Rheem, Ruud and Trane natural gas furnaces without any problems. Our vent screens are also used by those with AO Smith, Bradford White, General Electric, Kenmore, Lochinvar and State power vent water heaters.

When determining whether or not our vent screens will work on your appliance, it’s not the model that matters as much as the installation. Long runs of PVC vent pipe are more of a concern than anything else. Providing the length of your PVC intake and/or exhaust pipes are within manufacturer specifications, accounting for length deductions for the use of elbows, then you should be fine. Where problems arise is when a DIY’er installed furnace or hot water heater exceeds the manufacturers limit on the length of PVC pipe used for venting. But to give you an example of how rare these problems are, out of many thousands of orders, as of 11/4/2016, we have received zero complaints.

When it comes to deciding which of our vent screens is right for you, please pay close attention to the season you will be using them in. As a standard rule of thumb, during winter it is advisable to use our wide mesh rodent screen to keep animals outside. During spring, summer and early fall our dual insect and rodent screen will guard against more potential hazards (animals, bees, wasps, yellow jackets, etc.). If you are one of the lucky ones that does not have to experience below freezing temperatures and snow, our dual insect and rodent vent screen has a high rate of airflow that works well with most properly installed high efficiency appliances.

If you still have compatibility related questions, it would be wise to speak directly with the manufacturer of your furnace, hot water heater or boiler. An even better option is to contact a HVAC company or plumber so that they can visit your home or business and look at your present installation, make sure that it is within manufacturer guidelines and then determine vent protection product suitability.

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