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How Often Should You Clean Your Furnace? Benefits, Types, & Tips

furnace system in the basement

The furnace is one of the most important and expensive appliances in the home; getting the most out of it’s the primary concern of any homeowner. Cleaning the furnace is the best way to keep it operating correctly, but many people aren’t sure how often to do it. Most experts recommend cleaning your furnace about once a year. If this sounds like your situation, keep reading as we explain further.

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What Are the Benefits of Cleaning a Furnace?

Dirt can coat many components in a furnace, including the heat exchanger, blower motor, and ignition. These contaminants can cause the furnace to run longer than normal, increasing energy costs and putting more strain on the unit. It can also cause it to have difficulty turning on or operating correctly. A dirty furnace is also more likely to crack its heat exchanger, which can emit harmful carbon monoxide into the home. Cleaning the furnace once each year will also help reduce strain, increasing the unit’s lifespan, and it may help heat the area faster, reducing energy costs.

furnace set up
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How to Clean Your Furnace

We highly recommend calling a professional to clean your furnace because they are trained and have the proper tools to do a complete job. Many HVAC companies can also put you on a schedule, so your furnace will get a regular cleaning.

That said, you can clean it yourself if you wear safety equipment, like protective eyewear, a dust mask, and safety gloves.

Cleaning an Electric Furnace

Cleaning an Electric Furnace:
  • Turn off the electricity before attempting any service on an electric furnace. Use your home breaker box if you can’t find the switch on the furnace.
  • Replace the filter by lifting the blower access panel, which will expose it. If you live in a dusty or polluted environment, you can replace this filter as often as once per month.
  • Use a vacuum to remove any debris inside the furnace, especially around the blower wheel, but be careful around the wires. Use an old toothbrush to break off any caked grime, then wipe it down with a damp rag.
  • Inspect wires and belts to look for damage or wear. Use a Phillips screwdriver to tighten loose terminals.
  • Vacuum out the heat registers around the home to remove any dirt or dust before turning the power to your furnace back on.
replacing furnace air filter
Photo Credit By: Charles Knowles, Shutterstock

Cleaning a Gas Furnace

Cleaning a Gas Furnace:
  • Turn off the power to your furnace. There’s usually a red switch mounted on the wall, but you can also use your breaker box.
  • Turn off the gas by rotating the valve 90 degrees. If you used your furnace in the last hour, give it time to cool off before continuing work.
  • Lift and remove the furnace access doors, and loosen any screws to remove the burner cover. Use a vacuum to remove dust and dirt from the burners and furnace base.
  • Lift the blower door, and vacuum the compartment while looking for signs of soot. The presence of soot can indicate a larger problem.
  • Use a ratchet to remove the bolts holding the blower. You may also need to unscrew the control panel to access it.
  • The blower is a balanced item, so you must clean it carefully without disturbing the counterweights on the fan blades. Use a vacuum and a small brush for gentle cleaning.
  • Pull the flame sensor down and out of its bracket. Use a fine emery cloth to clean it before sliding it back in. A dirty sensor can prevent the furnace from starting when needed.
  • Check the blower belt for cracks or other damage, and replace it if necessary.
  • Replace the air filter with the same type. Before switching to a different brand, it’s best to check with the manufacturer to make sure it works.
  • Reverse the steps to close the furnace back up before turning it on.
man repairing gas furnace
Image Credit: Globalphotogroup, Shutterstock

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Most experts recommend cleaning your furnace about once a year. Regular maintenance will help keep it operating properly and extend its lifespan. We recommend turning to your local professionals for proper cleaning, but if you’re careful, you can clean it yourself following the steps listed here. Always wear appropriate safety equipment and carefully read your owner’s manual before you begin.

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Featured Image Credit: J.A. Dunbar, Shutterstock


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