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How to Do Furnace Cleaning Yourself

Winter will be tough on your furnace if you don’t clean it right. It’s best to do a thorough furnace cleaning before it gets too cold outside. The best thing is you don’t need an HVAC professional to clean the unit for you. There are heating maintenance tasks you can do to avoid being bitterly cold and unsafe.

When Is the Best Time to Clean My Furnace?

Your furnace should be cleaned in the fall before the temperatures drop much. Around the time you schedule annual furnace maintenance is good. Without proper cleaning, the unit may run inefficiently and the combustion process can be disrupted. Aside from reducing comfort, issues with dirt, dust, and soot can lead to costly furnace repairs and replacements. There’s also a risk of fire and carbon monoxide emissions.

Steps to Cleaning Your Furnace

To clean your furnace, you need basic supplies, including a vacuum cleaner, cloth, screwdriver, machine oil/lubricant, and a replacement filter. Keep some foil tape handy in case you find small holes in the flue or ductwork. It will let you patch them up quickly. To start, turn off the furnace’s electrical power and fuel supply (using the on/off switch and the fuel shutoff valve). Then proceed to:

Clean the Combustion Chamber

This is where fuel and air mix, sparking ignition and generating heat. The chamber is prone to a buildup of soot, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. When carbon builds up, it can prevent the burners from working. 

To access the combustion chamber, remove the access door. Use a small wire brush to scrape off the carbon. A shop vacuum can be used to remove loose material. Next, inspect the chamber for corrosion and any holes (which can be covered with foil tape).

Remove Debris from the Blower Compartment

Lift the blower compartment door and vacuum the interior. Once all the debris is removed, check for holes around the compartment and in the exhaust flue. Cover any small holes you find with foil tape, but replace the flue if it is severely corroded. Once you’re done, replace the door. Then check the air ducts around your furnace and patch up any holes you find.

Replace the Filters

If you have an oil-powered furnace, change the oil filter, which captures impurities before the oil circulates. Contaminants can cause misfires that shut down the system. To replace this filter, close the oil valve, remove the old filter, and insert the new one; then dispose of the dirty filter per local regulations.

The air filter must also be changed (or cleaned if possible), as it’ll allow your family to breathe clean air all winter. This is one of the simplest tasks. The filter can be swapped out with a matching one that will trap dust, dirt, and particulates. While you’re at it, check the blower belt’s tension and look for signs of wear. Adjust the belt if it moves more than ¾ inch when you press on it. If it’s loose, the blower will be less efficient.

The oil filter generally needs to be replaced annually, while you should replace the air filter every one to three months.

Lubricate the Motor Bearings

Oiling the motor bearings once a year reduces wear and tear on your furnace. First, locate the motor bearings and blower-shaft bearings; older furnaces often have two of each. Wipe the bearing caps with a clean cloth and remove them. Then apply two to three drops of machine oil to each bearing before replacing the caps.

Clean the Floor Vents

It is easy for dust, food scraps, pet hair, and foreign objects to clog the floor registers. Vacuum these out so the vents are clear of debris. This improves efficiency and prevents dust and particles from blowing around with the warm air your furnace produces.

When Should I Call a Professional?

Call a technician if your furnace is rumbling loudly, there’s an excessive amount of soot, or the pilot light is yellow instead of blue. Burner or heat exchanger problems are a major concern and need to be addressed professionally—right away. If your furnace runs for a short time and then shuts off, it may be overheating or have some other issue. It’s time to call for help.

Call Village Plumbing

Our HVAC professionals are experienced in furnace cleaning and maintenance. If you notice inconsistent temperatures, no heat, short cycling, noise, a blower that runs continuously, and other issues when cleaning your heater, contact us for help. Members of our Village Partner plan receive priority furnace maintenance service, special member rates, and reduced emergency fees. To learn more and/or request service, call 713-526-1491 today.

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