I have an old oil furnace that is vented to a chimney flue, with a damper.

I live in Maryland in a county where burning yard waste is legal. This can cause me to have an asthma attack when my furnace or air conditioning is on, and now my young son has also started to develop asthma.

I am fine if the furnace or AC are off or if my neighbor is not burning. But as soon as she starts, I have an asthma attack.

I have a little air monitoring device that shows air pollutants going up in my basement room where the furnace is installed as soon as the burning starts - the pollution outside is much higher but I also get some of that pollution inside my basement at the same time it goes up outside when it is full of smoke.

It can only come from the furnace - I only use the dryer on the morning when she is at work and not burning crap.

Currently I am debating between installing an electric furnace which does not require venting outside or moving (but prices have gone through the roof and my options are limited).

Would an electric furnace still draw air from outside (knowing most of my windows are sealed with tape now)?

  • Does your furnace connect to any vents in your basement or does it only heat the 'living floor(s)' or your house?
    – brhans
    Feb 25, 2021 at 3:04
  • 4
    I would recommend using a HEPA filter with activated charcoal to improve air quality. We recently purchased several Winix 5500 units for our laboratory spaces where we have multiple people in the room at the same time for COVID-19 safety reasons and we love these units. I also have a similar but much older Sanyo unit at home (I don't think these are available any more) and it does a great job. If you can control where the air comes into the house, you can pre-clean that air before it goes to the rest of the house. This would effectively put your house under positive pressure with clean air. Feb 25, 2021 at 3:16
  • 6
    Keep in mind that a straight "electric furnace" is a monster power hog...you're far better off with a heatpump, although how many square feet is your house, how old is it, and do you have any other combustion appliances in the house? (such as a gas water heater or gas dryer) Feb 25, 2021 at 3:54
  • 2
    Welcome, Virginia. As a community member/editor I revised your post to reduce drama a bit. We're not a discussion forum, so rants and insults aren't appropriate. You might revise further to ask about all possible solutions to your problem rather than one specific one that may not be ideal (see XY problems). Also, take the tour when you have a minute.
    – isherwood
    Feb 25, 2021 at 14:21
  • get an air filter or two; you need air exchange, and if you're too sealed up you lock in indoor pollution which is also associated with asthma triggers.
    – dandavis
    Feb 25, 2021 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


You should investigate and upgrade the filtration of your air circulation rather than replacing your fuel burning furnace with an electric one. You need air exchange with the outside to get the oxygen you need to live.

Though one upgrade I would investigate in is a dedicated intake for your furnace, that way it gets fresh outside air (which after burning goes straight out the chimney) instead of using the basement's ambient air and pulling it into negative pressure which leads it to suck in air from all around the house.

In a properly functioning furnace the combustion air and the circulating air are kept separated. CO poisoning is way too dangerous to allow for any intentional mixing.

You can add a intake fan in your basement fed from the clean air at the other side of your neighbour to avoid sucking in their soot. You can also add additional filtration to this intake (make sure to regularly replace the filters). If this intake is enough for the basement to be at positive pressure it will prevent the basement from sucking in your neighbour's polluted air.

You could also add a lockout to the furnace to prevent it running while the pollution is too high in your basement.


You can also do solar heating, at least when the sun is out. Solar panels on the roof have water running through them, and transfer the heat via pipes. Now if you have a boiler furnace you might be able to do a direct connection. Hire a professional, for actual plumbing.

Even though electric heat are power hogs, instead spending thousands on a new furnace, maybe 5 or 6 space heaters would do the trick, and just use the furnace the rest of the time. Installation is super easy, and you can buy them anywhere.

If your considering changing your furnace and natural gas is available. Our natural gas furnace, that although there is a intake and exhaust pipe the furnace is virtually sealed. The vast majority, if not all, of the air brought in is exhausted an not brought into the house.

HEPA filters seem the easiest best option.

Also how about some cheap PVC or etc on the outside of the house to run the vents to the opposite side of the house?

Obviously, you move the pipes to the opposite side through the cieling and seal up the old holes, but that is a lot more work.

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