Your furnace or heat pump is the engine that keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s also one of the essential features of your home. That means you need to take care of it, including regular maintenance, like cleaning, to keep it running smoothly year-round. But what if you don’t know how? Check out these easy ways for getting started with maintaining your furnace/heat pump so that it can run at peak performance all year.

1. Check the Filters

This is a simple and easy first step. Check the air filters in your furnace/heat pump once a month to make sure they’re only dirty enough that you can still see the light through them but not so dirty that it’s blocking airflow. If you have an electronic filter or one with a screen attached, be extra careful when cleaning it to avoid breaking the screen.

If they’re dirty, replace them. You can buy disposable filters or washable ones—be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions so you don’t damage your furnace/heat pump. If you have a pet, you might need to clean your filters more often. Pet hair and dander can clog the filters faster and reduce the airflow through your furnace/heat pump, making it work harder to keep your home comfortable.

In addition to checking the filters, you should also clean any screens on vents to your furnace/heat pump. Just like with air filter screens, these can get clogged up pretty quickly—and that means less airflow for heating or cooling your home.

2. Clean the Coils

Every furnace/heat pump has a fan and some form of a heat exchanger, usually with one or more long coils exposed to the open air so they can get cold when it’s hot outside. Over time, dust accumulates on these coils, reducing their efficiency at transferring heat. You can use a vacuum cleaner with the hose attachment or a coil brush to clean the coils. Be sure to remove any dirt and dust, but be careful not to damage the fins on the coils.

If your furnace/heat pump has an outdoor unit, you should check the fins there. Insects often build nests in outdoor units, which can block airflow to your furnace/heat pump. With a brush or vacuum cleaner hose attachment, you should also clean out any dust or dirt from the outdoor unit’s fan blades.

In cleaning the coils and fins, you should also check for any ice or snow buildup on the outdoor unit. If there’s a lot of ice, that could mean your furnace/heat pump isn’t working correctly and has trouble dissipating heat.

3. Keep the Flue Clean

A furnace/heat pump’s flue is the pipe that runs up your chimney or exhaust vent where combustion gases are vented to the outside air. If it gets dirty, airflow through your furnace/heat pump can be restricted, which means lower heating and cooling efficiency for you! You can use a vacuum cleaner with the hose attachment or a chimney brush to keep the flue clean.

If you have a gas furnace/heat pump, check the flue vent at least twice a year to ensure no obstructions. For those with oil or propane furnaces/heat pumps, check the chimney where it connects to your outdoor unit for obstructions as well. Also, be aware that if your furnace/heat pump is located in an area like Flower Mound, TX, where there’s a lot of snow, that can cause the flue to ice up and restrict airflow. In addition to cleaning the flue, you should also check for obstructions in your exhaust vent. Debris like leaves or twigs can quickly accumulate and block airflow.

4. Keep the Area Clear

If you have a gas furnace/heat pump, you might notice that debris on or near it can get pretty hot. That’s because your fan blows air over this part of the heat exchanger to warm up before pushing it into your home through ductwork in the floors, walls, or ceilings. So, if there’s a lot of debris near your furnace/heat pump, it can get sucked into the fan and cause it to work harder than it should. This can increase energy bills and shorter lifespans for your furnace/heat pump.

To keep this from happening, you should ensure that the area around your furnace/heat pump is clear of any vegetation or debris at least once a year. You might want to do it twice if your home is in an especially wooded area, or if there are trees nearby with low-hanging branches.

In addition to keeping the area clear, you should also ensure that your furnace/heat pump is located in a well-ventilated area. That can lead to overheating and shorter lifespans for your equipment if it’s not.

5. Check the Ducts for Leaks

A big part of the heating and cooling process happens after your furnace/heat pump has heated or cooled the air and it’s sent into your home through the ducts. If there are any leaks in the ducts, that means some of the conditioned air will escape before it even gets to where you need it. This can lead to increased energy bills and an uncomfortable home.

You can use a duct leakage tester or even just your hand to check for leaks. If you feel any cold air coming out of the vents when the furnace/heat pump is turned off, that means there’s a leak somewhere in the ductwork. You can usually fix duct leaks by using some caulk or insulation tape. If the leak is big, you might need to replace part of the ductwork.

In addition to checking for leaks, you should get your ductwork cleaned every few years. This will help improve the efficiency of your furnace/heat pump and increase overall comfort in your home by reducing dust buildup, which can lead to allergies and more frequent heating or cooling cycles.

6. Clean the Flame Sensor

If you have a gas furnace/heat pump, the flame sensor is what tells your furnace/heat pump to turn on or off when there’s not enough heat in your home. If it goes out of alignment or gets dirty, that can lead to trouble with getting consistent readings and shortening the lifespan of your equipment. You can use a vacuum cleaner with the hose attachment or a Q-tip to clean it.

In addition to cleaning the flame sensor, you should check it for obstructions every few months. If anything is blocking the view of the sensor, your furnace/heat pump won’t be able to turn on correctly and could end up costing you a lot of money in energy bills.

7. Clean the Heat Exchanger Block

If you have a forced-air furnace/heat pump, the heat exchanger block is what sends conditioned air throughout your home. If it doesn’t get cleaned regularly, dust and debris can build upon this part of your equipment, making it less efficient and shortening its lifespan. You should clean yours at least once every few years.

You can use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment or a brush to clean it. Make sure to remove all of the dust and debris from the fins on the heat exchanger block—otherwise, it will just accumulate again over time.

In addition to cleaning the heat exchanger block, you should check for obstructions around it every few months. If anything is blocking the airflow, your furnace/heat pump won’t send conditioned air through your home correctly, and you could see an increase in your energy bills.

The Bottomline

While cleaning your furnace/heat pump isn’t exactly enjoyable, it is essential to reduce energy bills and increase the lifespan of your equipment. If you follow these steps regularly, that should be enough to keep them in good condition for many years. To learn more on how to clean your furnace/heat pump, the certified team at Triple A Air Conditioning & Heating in Flower Mound, TX, can help. Our family-owned and -operated business offers cooling and heating installation, maintenance, and repair services as well as assistance with indoor air quality. We’ve been proudly serving the area since 1969. Contact us today to learn more!

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