If you take a proactive approach to most tasks, it’s usually easier and more cost effective than the alternative. This is especially true when it comes to gas furnaces. Regular preventative maintenance and cleaning is a great way to improve the performance and energy efficiency. But, there are other bonuses, well maintained equipment tends to last longer, and the frequency and cost of repairs are lessened. In this article, we will take a closer look at how you should clean a gas furnace.
Regular Gas Furnace Cleaning
It’s important to engage in preventative maintenance to keep the heating system working well and to limit downtime. Unfortunately, many people ignore their furnaces until something goes wrong, and then they call a local HVAC specialist to fix the problem. But, regular cleaning is an important part of maintenance, and you don’t need any special skills or tools to clean the furnace properly. The best time to clean the furnace is before the heating season commences to ensure that you can heat your home.
10 Steps to Clean Your Gas Furnace
Every furnace needs some annual essential maintenance, but any system that uses combustion is especially prone to failure if it becomes too dirty. It’s easy to clean your gas furnace if you follow these ten steps:
Step 1: Gather the Tools and Supplies
To clean your gas furnace, you will need some tools and supplies: a screwdriver, a ratchet, and socket set, a vacuum with an upholstery brush attachment or a shop vac, an emery cloth, lightweight machine oil, a stiff brush, and fresh furnace filter. Make sure you have everything to hand before you begin, and the entire process will be much easier.
Step 2: Turn Off the Power and Gas
Locate the breaker for the furnace and turn off the power to the “Off” position. There should now be no power supplied to the furnace without affecting the rest of your home. Next, find the gas valve and shut-off the gas with a ¼ turn.
Step 3: Wipe Down the Furnace Surfaces
Use a damp rag to wipe down the exterior surfaces of the furnace. Then lift the furnace access door by lifting it and pulling it out gently. Put the access door in a safe place and loosen the burner cover screws inside (if you have a cover fitted).
Step 4: Clean the Burners and Base
Use the shop vac or a household vacuum fitted with an upholstery or wand attachment to vacuum the burners. You may need extensions to do this, and do your best to reach right into the back to clean. Lift the blower door and vacuum the interior of the blower unit compartment too. While you’re there, look for any soot deposits that are a sure sign of poor combustion in the gas furnace. If you notice excessive volumes of soot, it’s time to call your local heating and cooling specialist to inspect the furnace.
Step 5: Clean the Blower Unit
In any forced-air heating system, the blower unit is an essential component, which drives the fan that distributes the treated air throughout the home. This is a critical and hard working component, and the performance can be degraded if the blower is dirty.
To remove the blower unit, unscrew the control panel that covers it and let it hang down. Take the socket and ratchet set and remove the bolts that keep the blower unit in place. Next, gently remove the blower taking great care to avoid disruption to the fan blade counterweights and wiring. Clean the vacuum using the small brush to remove stubborn dirt deposits and the vacuum to get rid of the dust and dirt. Clean the blower unit thoroughly to prevent balancing issues that could cause damage later. When you’re done, reassemble the blower unit working in reverse.
Step 6: Clean the Pilot Light
Many gas furnaces have a pilot light, but some newer models have a hot surface igniter instead. These surfaces are prone to dirt and burn deposits that can give false readings and prevent efficient operation. These surfaces can be vulnerable to contact, and they may break if you touch them. So, the best way to clean these surfaces is to blow on them with a drinking straw. When you’re done, replace the furnace doors to keep the part clean and safe.
Step 7: Cleaning the Flame Sensor
Gently pull the flame sensor down from its bracket and give it a light clean with the fine emery cloth. This is important; if the flame sensor is dirty, it may prevent the gas furnace from lighting properly. When you’re done, slide it back in, and if the flame sensor is damaged, replace it.
Step 8: Inspecting the Drive Belt
The blower unit drives the fan with a drive belt that can be prone to fraying and cracking. The belt is inexpensive, and a replacement is simple. When the new drive belt is in place, adjust it to a ½” to ¾” tension.
Step 9: Lubrication
Remove the oil caps, clean them with a rag, and oil the blower motor and shaft bearings. Take care to lubricate with only a couple of drops of oil, or you may do more harm than good. Wipe up any excess oil drips, replace the oil caps, and you’re done.
Step 10: Change the Air Filter
The furnace filter should be changed at three month intervals to protect the heating system. This is the bare minimum; if anyone in the home has allergies or respiratory ailments, more frequent air filter changes are advisable. It’s tempting to consider an upgrade to a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ). But, you must check with an HVAC specialist or the manufacturer to ensure that your system can handle these filters, or the blower motor and efficiency may suffer.
When you’re done cleaning, restore the power and gas and activate the burners with the thermostat. The burner flames should be blue and even, and if they are yellow, this means that an incomplete combustion is occurring. The adjustment and cleaning of burners is a job for a professional only.
If you need to schedule cleaning and essential maintenance for your gas furnace, contact your local HVAC specialist today.