If you use a gas or oil furnace to heat your home, it’s essential that you have the unit professionally serviced and inspected by a certified furnace technician each year. One of the most important parts of servicing a furnace is cleaning it. If your furnace isn’t cleaned regularly, its performance can quickly start to suffer leading to the unit not producing nearly as much heat. Failing to keep your furnace clean can also prevent it from lighting or cause it to shut off after only a few seconds. In today’s article, we’re going to discuss the different parts of a furnace that need to be cleaned, the benefits of cleaning and what can happen if you don’t have your furnace cleaned every year.
Why Fall Is the Best Time to Have Your Furnace Cleaned and Serviced
Ideally, you should always schedule an appointment to have your furnace cleaned and serviced in the early fall before the weather gets cold enough that you need to turn your heating system on. Whenever a furnace sits unused for a prolonged time, some of its components will always start to collect dust, cobwebs and debris. Once you finally turn the unit on, all of the dust and debris can easily prevent it from heating properly or from turning on at all. By having your furnace serviced and cleaned before you actually need it, you can ensure that it’s ready to go and will work properly once the cold weather sets in.
Why Professional Furnace Cleaning Is a Must
Cleaning a furnace is not something you should ever attempt to do on your own. Some of the components are quite fragile and could easily get damaged. Were this to happen, you may need to pay for expensive repairs or replacement parts to get your furnace working again. Another reason why you should always have your furnace serviced by a certified HVAC technician is that they will also inspect your entire heating system at the same time. This is important for ensuring that it is safe to operate and also that it works effectively and doesn’t need any repairs. Now that you know when your furnace should be cleaned and why you should always leave it to a professional, let’s look at the different components that need to be cleaned and why each one is important.
The burners are obviously one of the most important parts of a furnace since they are what allow the unit to produce heat. The burners will always accumulate quite a bit of dust over the summer, and it’s also common for tiny spiders to build webs inside the burner ports where the gas flows out. All of the dust and debris can easily end up clogging some of the ports so that not as much gas flows out. Clogged burner ports can cause a slight delay in ignition, which allows gas to begin filling the combustion chamber. Once the burners finally light, all of the gas in the chamber can produce a small explosion or ball of fire that can potentially crack the heat exchanger or damage other components.
When the burners are dirty, it can also lead to the gas not fully combusting. When the burners are clean and the gas fully combusts, the burners will produce a strong blue flame. Weak yellow or orange flames are a sign that the gas isn’t fully combusting, which leads to the burners producing much less heat and the furnace not working nearly as well.
Natural gas normally burns cleanly when it fully combusts and only produces carbon dioxide and water vapor. If the gas doesn’t fully combust, deadly carbon monoxide can also be produced. This is another reason why cleaning the burners is so important as it lessens the chance of carbon monoxide exposure and potential poisoning.
Most modern gas furnaces have a flame sensor, and this is an essential safety feature that prevents gas from continuing to flow out of the burners if the unit fails to light for any reason. The way that a flame sensor functions is by detecting heat from the flames produced by the burners. When the flame sensor is clean, this happens almost instantly.
The issue is that dust coating the sensor can insulate it so that it can’t detect heat. When the sensor doesn’t detect the flames within a few seconds, the furnace’s control board will send a signal for the unit’s gas valve to close so no more gas flows into the combustion chamber. This makes it important that the flame sensor is fully cleaned as otherwise, your furnace won’t ever work since it will only ever stay lit for a few seconds.
The blower is responsible for pulling cool air into the furnace and drawing it over the unit’s metal heat exchanger. The hot combustion fumes produced by the burner rise up through the heat exchanger causing the metal to get extremely hot. As cool air is drawn over the heat exchanger, the heat flows out of the metal and raises the air temperature. Finally, the blower then blows the heated air into the supply ducts and out of the supply vents in each room.
Although the furnace filter helps to trap dust from getting inside the system, the blower will still become incredibly dusty and dirty over time. The problem is even worse if you also have central air conditioning since the same blower also circulates air through your AC system. If the blower isn’t cleaned yearly, you’ll quickly start to have issues with weak airflow causing the furnace to produce much less heat. A dirty blower will always end up working much harder than normal, which causes greater wear and tear on the blower motor and will usually shorten its lifespan.
If the blower can’t pull enough cool air into the furnace, both it and the furnace itself can also quickly start overheating. When either overheats, it will trigger the high-temperature limit switch causing the system to shut down completely. If this happens, you will then need to wait for the system to cool down to a safe temperature before it can turn on again.
If you have an oil furnace, the combustion chamber also needs to be cleaned regularly to get rid of all of the soot that builds up inside it. Soot generally isn’t an issue with gas furnaces as long as the burners are clean, but there are times when the combustion chamber on a gas unit may need to be cleaned. The issue with soot build-up is that it can lead to increased corrosion that can start to eat through the walls of the combustion chamber and potentially lead to the combustion fumes escaping. Soot can also start to clog the heat exchanger, which can limit the furnace’s effectiveness and also lead to the combustion fumes not being vented outside.
The final step in cleaning a gas or oil furnace is to inspect the exhaust flue to ensure the unit vents properly. Birds and other animals can sometimes nest in the flue during the summer, and the flue can also easily get filled with leaves and debris. Making sure the flue is cleaned is important for ensuring the furnace can operate safely. If the flue is clogged, the combustion gases won’t be able to flow outside and can start seeping back into your home. This can be especially dangerous if the burners aren’t clean since it could cause carbon monoxide to leak out into your living areas.
Comfort Zone Heating & Air Conditioning is proud to be the top choice for furnace maintenance in Cobourg. We service all furnace brands and models, and we also offer professional heat pump and AC maintenance services. Contact us today to set up a time to have your furnace serviced this fall or to schedule any other heating or cooling service.