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AC and Heating Tip from AC Express

How to Clean Your Furnace

How to Clean Your Furnace

As we move further and further into fall here in Austin, heating becomes more and more necessary. There may have been many months behind us when our heaters were completely idle and forgotten about but now it’s about that we starting thinking about those heaters again. Heating in Austin is going to be a staple in our daily lives in the very near future and as such we want them to be working at top efficiency so we can get the most comfort out of them for the least amount of energy and money.

What that means is it’s time to start thinking about heater maintenance. One thing that heater maintenance involves is cleaning. Now, this can be done by a professional. That is a perfectly valid option. For those who aren’t experienced with home improvement and DIY home maintenance, calling a professional and getting your furnace cleaned around this time of the year is a great idea. That’s a part of preventative maintenance and it’s highly recommended to have such a checkup done once a year at least. But for those who want to try tackling such a project themselves, the following tip will be a how to on cleaning one’s furnace.

The Tools

Before you start cleaning anything, you’ll want to make sure you have the right tools for the job. This will require more than just a duster and a cotton cloth. If you want to properly clean your furnace enough to get it prepared for winter you’ll need to procure the following materials. You’ll need:

  • a vacuum (preferably one with a HEPA filter)
  • an extension hose
  • a crevice tool
  • a dusting poof
  • work gloves (cotton is fine, leather is acceptable)

After getting these materials then you’re ready to move on to the next step, ensuring safety by turning off the power.

1. Switch Off the Gas and Electricity

Safety is paramount when it comes to a home maintenance task like furnace cleaning. You will want to locate your thermostat and the power outlet that feeds your furnace. Your thermostat may be an analog type or it may be digital. If yours is analog, there may be a switch along the outside edge. If not, turn the temperate setting to the lowest possible. You may also want to remove the fuse or turn off the circuit breaker in your home's electric box. You might also or alternatively unplug the power going into the furnace itself. Either way, just make sure the furnace itself is turned off before you move forward. Then, locate the valve that controls the flow of natural gas into your furnace and shut off this valve.

2. Dust Off the Exterior

Before moving to the inside and starting to take things apart. You can and should do a quick dust of the outside of the furnace. The outputs of the furnace can get quite hot. Removing cobwebs, dust, and residues will alleviate the odor of a furnace firing up after having been dormant for a while. Clean the ductwork at the furnace so when the cold weather returns and the furnace activates, you won't smell something burning and stress about what could be wrong.

3. Clean the Blower

Dust and dirt are the biggest enemies of your furnace. Such things can waste fuel and drastically lower efficiency. Dirt affects all three basic components of your furnace, so cleaning is the most important part of regular maintenance. The three parts of the furnace should be cleaned: the filter system, the blower, and the motor. At this point in the project, it isn’t entirely necessary to start in one specific place, so let’s start by cleaning the blower of the furnace.

The blower is also sometimes referred to as the squirrel-cage. The first thing you’re going to want to do is remove any screws and bolts that are keeping the blower in place. It’s much easier to clean when removed from the furnace itself. If there’s a control panel in front of the blower, undo the two screws keeping in place to let the blower hang and able to accessed. Next you’ll need to use a socket and ratchet to undo the bolts holding blower in place. If power cord to fan assembly is not long enough to permit fan unit to slide all the way out, disconnect cord. Mark the wire connections first so you'll be able to reassemble unit correctly. With a toothbrush, clean each fan blade and spaces between the blades.

Clean the blower blades thoroughly with a vacuum and a small brush. Vacuum the belts and the pulleys. Use the vacuum to remove the dirt and debris loosened by the brush on the blades. Wipe down the motor housing to prevent dirt build up in the motor. Be careful not to disturb the counterweights or wiring while cleaning. Delicate care is important here.

After vacuuming, a fine and wet cloth can be used to wipe down the blades and blower components carefully, avoiding any of the electric components. Then all you need to do is reverse the steps you took earlier to get the blower back into place.

4. Clean the Ducts

The ducts will need attention next. You may not be able to clean out the whole ductwork system in your house by yourself but that’s okay because most debris build up is going to be in the first few feet before each vent. Clean ducts thoroughly using a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. The HEPA filter will prevent large amounts of dust from scattering throughout your house. If your home has a forced-air furnace, vacuum ducts regularly. For a furnace with a built-in humidifier, clean the humidifier with a de-scaler to make sure it continues to works properly.

5. Clean the Details

Next, you’ll want to clean some of the smaller components of the furnace. These include the pilot light, the igniter, and the flame sensor. These are delicate parts of your furnace so a lot of care should be taken here. You can even use a straw here if you want, just a regular beverage straw. Point the straw at the pilot light and igniter to blow dust out of these components. For the flame sensor, pull it from the brackets keeping it in place and then use a delicate cloth to clean it so that it’s free from dust and debris.

6. Clean or Replace the Filter

This is an essential part of any home heating maintenance routine. Heating filters get a lot of air blowing through them and as such, they are constantly picking up dirt and debris, filtering it out of the air. Filters look like cardboard frames that house a fine woven material, the finer the weave, the more particles that it will be able to pick up. Models vary, but there will be access panels that you must open or remove to get to your furnace's filter. Keep a screwdriver handy as you may need to loosen screws to open a panel. Replace any disposable filters with new ones. If you have washable filters, remove them from the furnace and clean them with mild detergent and water. Let them dry completely before putting them back in.

7. Lubricate the Motor

Despite the fact that this step doesn’t directly involve the use of cleaning materials, lubricating the motor of your furnace is an important part of cleaning routine because it prevents the motor from getting worn and dirty. Many furnaces are permanently lubricated upon installation and in fact have no access ports that allow for manual lubrication. If this is the case with your furnace then this step isn’t necessary. However, if you can see oil ports on your motor then it will require manual lubrication. Apply three to ten drops of 10-weight non-detergent motor oil into the ports, that’s for each port. You might find that the blower shaft also has oil ports. If this is the case, they should be lubricated as well using the same guidelines.

8. Test the Furnace

After all of that, makes sure you’ve put the components of the heater back into place. Make sure the blower is reattached to the furnace and is secure in place. Make sure the filter has been replaced whether you cleaned it with a vacuum or replaced it with a new one. If you switched the furnace off at the fuse box then flip the switch back into the on position. If you unplugged the furnace directly then plug it back in. Go to your thermostat and set it to both the heat position and the on position. Turn the temperature to a higher temperature then the ambient temperature and check to see if the furnace switches on. Let it run for several minutes and be attentive for anything that’s off. Check for any strange smells or burning scents and listen for any unusual noises. If you notice anything, switch the furnace off and call a professional.

Furnace Cleaning and Heating Repair in Austin

Cleaning your furnace yourself is a great way to save money. Not only do you save on the cleaning itself by doing it yourself instead of hiring a professional, you’ll save money in the long run by using a clean and healthy furnace that is going to run more efficiently, saving you money on your energy bills, and be less likely to break down and need repair. Your furnace should be cleaned, either by you or by a professional, at least once a year and right now, as we’re approaching cool weather in Austin, is the best time to do it.

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a tough winter when all of the sudden your furnace stops working. Luckily, you can rest assured that any heater repair in Austin you’ll ever need can be taken care of swiftly and expertly when you’re in the hands of AC Express. We’re an Austin heater repair company that humbly serves the Austin area, from Round Rock and Lago Vista to Kyle and Manor. If you find yourself in need of heater repair in Austin, call AC Express!


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