How Often Should You Be Cleaning Your Furnace?

We bet you remember how well your trusty furnace did keeping you warm last winter. With the next frost likely a few months away, now is a good time to look into the maintenance of the heating systems in your home. Owning a home comes with some not-so-glamorous jobs, one of which is getting right in with the dirt and grime that's collected in your furnace and giving it a thorough clean.

So, just how often should you be cleaning your furnace? Experts agree there are few warning signs that could indicate it's time to get your hands dirty. According to Allied Experts, there are essentially three things to look out for: dust and debris collected in your furnace filter, getting a higher energy bill than normal, and the presence of yellow flames instead of blue ones.

Doctor HVAC noted a few more signs, including an increase in furnace-related repairs, water leakage, a furnace that's producing cold air instead of hot, and a furnace that is short cycling. All or one of these signs could mean that it's time to be cleaning your furnace.

Everyone's wondering how frequently your furnace needs to be cleaned

According to Doctor HVAC, furnace maintenance should be scheduled once a year, if possible — while duct cleaning should happen every three to five years. When it comes to cleaning your furnace duct, Doctor HVAC advises homeowners to begin by covering the workspace to protect the surface. 

Then remove the covers and have a look at the ductwork. You'll then vacuum the ducts, registers, and vents. Don't forget to disinfect the ducts and clean the blower area.

In addition to questions about cleaning the ducts and regular furnace maintenance, many wonder about cleaning their furnace filters. "One of the biggest culprits of a faulty gas furnace is a dirty filter," Service First Heating and Cooling noted. The maintenance company explained that if you can remember to change your furnace filters every couple of months, you can avoid troublesome gas furnaces.

How do you go about cleaning a furnace?

As for the furnace itself, you need to focus on the burner area, flame sensor, fuel line, pilot light, thermocouple, and gas pressure (per Doctor HVAC).

While you can vacuum out the burner area with a regular household vacuum wand attachment, you have to remove it from its bracket and gently wipe it down first, according to Aire Serv. You can now move on to inspecting the moving parts to see if they're all in order, beginning with the blower. If there's lots of soot built up, it needs some extra TLC. Then, you'll turn your attention to the hot surface igniter. Family Handy Man recommends using a straw and blowing air through it to avoid touching the igniter itself, as it's pretty fragile. You can finish off by adjusting the dampers if needed — keeping the seasonal changes in mind — and checking for leaks in the air ducts and sealing them.

Overwhelming as it sounds, cleaning your furnace is a job that's entirely possible for you to do yourself (via Service First Heating and Cooling). So how about adding cleaning your furnace to your list of things to do before you head out to buy your essential winter clothes this year?