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Reuben Saltzman

Old vent caps need to go

If you drive through any neighborhood in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, you’ll find a handful of gas vents with missing or improper vent caps. These improper caps all need to go.

old vent caps

The most serious problem with this style of vent cap is that it can collapse and block the vent.

fallen vent cap

The condition pictured above is an imminent safety hazard that needs immediate repair; this will likely cause the combustion gases from the furnace and water heater to backdraft into the home. Not only that, but this will also cause the combustion appliances to burn improperly, causing high levels of carbon monoxide to enter the home. That’s how people die. Again, this is extremely dangerous.

What to do about old vent caps

The simple fix for this condition is to replace the vent cap with a new, UL listed vent cap. Just stop by any home improvement store and you’ll find them in the HVAC department. If you look for these in the roofing section, you probably won’t find the right one.

listed vent cap

Newer vent caps will be somewhat enclosed at the top, which will help to prevent water and pest intrusion. This design also helps to prevent wind from causing gas appliances to backdraft. Also, these designs won’t allow the cap to collapse and block the vent.

The one that I’m blogging about today was commonly known in the trades as a “coolie cap”, and is pictured below.

Coolie hat listing on Amazon

“Coolie” is a dated, offensive term for unskilled Asian workers that shouldn’t be used.  A few PC terms for this cap would be an “unlisted cap”, an “unapproved cap”, or a “witches cap”.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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15 responses to “Old vent caps need to go”

  1. Andy
    December 19, 2017, 7:36 am

    Ok until you hit your coolie rant. Lose it. Doubt you’d tell a Polish or Finlander joke here.

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    December 19, 2017, 8:37 am

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you for reading, and for taking time to share your concerns. I’m not making a joke about this; I’m being serious. I still hear these referred to as coolie caps, and I’m letting my readers know that this isn’t an acceptable term.

  3. bill
    January 2, 2018, 12:06 pm

    Just one of those things that used to be commonly used but people have evolved past in their thoughts.

    Just heard the terms male and female used on This Old House for items that fit together and have wondered for a while if they are still considered appropriate in mixed company.

    Waaayyy back, I learned a mnemonic for the electrical color code (numbers 0-9) that is probably no longer appropriate but have not heard a recent one.

  4. One of your Asian customers
    December 19, 2017, 11:30 am

    Some of the background on Coolie isn’t needed. You also don’t state that you feel it is an unacceptable term. I agree with Andy that it didn’t add to this post. It’s your blog but doesn’t show well on you or your company in my opinion.

  5. Reuben Saltzman
    December 19, 2017, 11:42 am

    Thank you for commenting. I sure don’t want to offend anyone; my goal is to let people know that this isn’t an acceptable term. I grew up hearing the term, and I had no idea that it was offensive. I don’t think most of the people who said it even knew that it was offensive. I re-wrote the end of my blog post to say the following:

    The one that I’m blogging about today was commonly known in the trades as a “coolie cap”, and is pictured below.

    “Coolie” is a dated, offensive term for unskilled Asian workers that shouldn’t be used.  A few PC terms for this cap would be an “unlisted cap”, an “unapproved cap”, or a “witches cap”.

    Please let me know if this sounds better. Thank you.

  6. One of your Asian customers
    January 15, 2018, 1:37 pm

    Thank you for responding.

  7. Gary
    December 19, 2017, 10:20 pm

    It is clear to me that Reuben did not knowingly post something that was offensive. He was not aware that “Coolie” is an offensive term, it was just something he had heard in reference to a type of hat. I did not know that “Coolie” was an offensive term until reading these comments. Most people probably do not know that it is an offensive term, especially when referencing a type of hat. So as far as I’m concerned, Reuben does not owe anyone an apology. Some people just seem to be waiting to be offended by something, whether offense was intended or not.

    I enjoy Reuben’s blog for its informative content which is helpful to me as a homeowner. I do not read it to see if it passes a political correctness test. Just my opinion – – hope my comment doesn’t get removed for not bowing to the political correctness of other people’s comments.

  8. Reuben Saltzman
    December 21, 2017, 11:12 am

    You’re correct. Thank you, Gary.

  9. John G. Kopp
    December 20, 2017, 8:02 am

    Thank you Reuben for your article about defective vent rain caps. I have been beating the drum about this subject for years. Off and on I have tried to get CPSC to address this issue. I have many examples and cases of older vent caps collapsing and blocking vent pipes. They are older UL Listed caps by the way. It seems CPSC is only interested in deaths and recalls. Sometimes actions should be taken because of the known hazards regardless of the brand and who made it. I am certain people have died because of this issue and the cause of death was not known. Again I appreciate you taking the time to write your article. John

  10. Reuben Saltzman
    December 21, 2017, 11:12 am

    Thank you, John.

  11. Nick Koenig
    December 20, 2017, 8:07 pm

    Thanks, Comimg from the trades I’ve heard that term several times. Never knew it was a derogatory term, now I do.

  12. Reuben Saltzman
    December 21, 2017, 11:13 am

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Nick.

  13. Barb
    January 9, 2018, 3:58 pm

    What would cause frost build up on the hot water vent on the roof?

  14. Reuben Saltzman
    January 9, 2018, 4:15 pm

    The exhaust gas from water heaters contains a lot of moisture. Once it hits the cold air, it can turn to frost or ice.

  15. Kevin Lee
    March 1, 2018, 12:02 pm

    I am an Asian and I am a follower of this blog. I rather find this article informative than offensive. I wasn’t even aware that’s where the term is derived from and “old vent caps” are similar to. As I see it, there is no intent to offend anyone for that matter although it is not really necessary. Cheers!

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