Step-by-Step Guide to Furnace Cleaning

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Home improvement is essential to maintain the longevity of your home. One of the essential parts of your home that needs attention is your furnace. Keeping your furnace clean and maintained can significantly reduce energy costs and prolong its life. It is also vital to have your furnace checked by a professional regularly.

If you find that your floors, bookcases, coffee tables, and other surfaces in your home are always covered in dust and dirt, it could be due to your furnace. A dirty furnace filter may be responsible for the excess dust around your home. By replacing or cleaning the filter, you can reduce your cleaning efforts and keep the air and surfaces clean in your home. Furnace cleaning can also reduce energy costs by 5 to 15 percent.

Cleaning your furnace filter is easy, and you don’t need any special tools. If you have disposable filters, you can replace them with new ones. However, if you have permanent filters, you can use household items like toothbrushes, scrub brushes, toothpicks, and cotton swabs to clean them. You’ll also need a regular vacuum or a shop vac and a sink or garden hose to clean the permanent furnace filter.

Tools Required for Cleaning a Furnace

When cleaning a furnace, you need specific tools to complete the task. These tools may vary depending on the type of furnace you have. However, the tools listed below are a starting point for cleaning your furnace.

The tools needed to clean most furnaces include:

  • Vacuum with removable attachments
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpicks
  • Cotton swabs
  • Scrub brushes
  • Replacement filters (if you use disposable filters)
  • Rags

It is best to use a vacuum with removable attachments to clean your furnace. An upright vacuum without a hose is not useful in cleaning the furnace because you need to reach small nooks and crannies of the furnace. You’ll also need multiple toothpicks and cotton swabs to clean the smallest areas and scrub brushes of various sizes to clean all vents.

If you want to know how to clean your furnace, keep reading for some helpful tips. First of all, you’ll need a few tools, but most of them should already be in your toolbox. You’ll also need a vacuum and some old rags to wipe down the outside of the furnace. By doing this job yourself, you can save a lot of money on repairs [source: Taylor].

Steps for Cleaning a Furnace

Cleaning your furnace is not a difficult task, but it’s important to do it regularly. At the beginning of winter and once a month during heavy-use months, you should clean the furnace. First, turn off the power to your furnace by locating your circuit breaker. Then, open the panel that houses the filter. Depending on the model, you might need a screwdriver or another tool for this step.

Once you find the filter, remove it and inspect it. If it’s disposable, you can simply insert a new filter and replace the panel. A disposable filter usually looks like pleated paper in a cardboard frame and an open grid. A permanent, reusable filter will be similar but made of more durable materials. To clean a reusable filter, vacuum it and use a scrub brush or damp cloth for stubborn particles. You can rinse the filter and let it dry before replacing it. While you wait for the filter to dry, clean the area where it sits and the blower assembly and motor housing.

Cleaning your furnace regularly can save you 5 to 15 percent on your energy costs, so it’s worth the effort [source: Peterson].

Precautions for Safe Furnace Cleaning

Like any home maintenance task, cleaning a furnace requires safety precautions, especially when dealing with appliances. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Before you even touch the front panel of the furnace, make sure to turn off the power. While you won’t be working with electrical wiring, you will be handling the internal components of the furnace, which may require repositioning of some wiring to reach the filter.

Be careful not to spill water when cleaning the filter or wiping down other parts of the furnace. Also, make sure that the filter is completely dry before reinstalling it, as water and electricity don’t mix.

When vacuuming or washing the filter, you should wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling dirt, dust, and grime.

Finally, make sure you return everything to its proper place and reconfigure the furnace correctly, leaving the correct amount of space between the filter, vents, and other equipment. An improperly configured furnace can lead to malfunctioning and potentially dangerous consequences.

Visit the links on the next page to learn more about safe furnace cleaning.

Breathe Easier

Cleaning the furnace filter is a small job that can have big benefits for you, your home, and your family. It can potentially reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and help you breathe better as air passes through less dirt and dust, which may also lower your energy bill.

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  • Dickinson, Marc. “How to Clean Furnace Filter.” Service Magic. (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Halas, Rose. “How to Clean Your Furnace.” Essortment. 2002. (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Hayner, Jan. “Take the Stress Out of Housecleaning.” Online Organizing. Nov. 21, 2008. (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Heloise. “Tidy Up Air Ducts.” Good Housekeeping. (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Lucky Duct. “Furnace Cleaning.” (Accessed 3/3/309)
  • National Furnace Heating and Air Conditioning. “Safety and Maintenance.” (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Peterson, Josh. “How to Clean a Furnace Filter.” Planet Green. Feb. 6, 2009. (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Standley, Vincent. “Clean Your Furnace Filter.” Green Guide. Jan. 31, 2009. (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Start Remodeling. “Fall Furnace Cleaning – Maintenance.” (Accessed 3/3/09)
  • Taylor, Glenn. “A Furnace Clean-and-Check Primer.” Contracting Business. Nov. 1, 2004. (Accessed 3/3/09)


1. What are the benefits of cleaning my furnace?

Cleaning your furnace regularly helps it operate more efficiently, which can save you money on your energy bill. It also helps extend the lifespan of your furnace and can prevent breakdowns or malfunctions. Additionally, a clean furnace promotes better indoor air quality and reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

2. How often should I clean my furnace?

You should have your furnace cleaned by a professional once a year. However, if you have pets, excessive dust, or suffer from allergies, you may want to consider cleaning it more frequently.

3. What is involved in cleaning a furnace?

A professional furnace cleaning involves several steps, including inspecting the furnace, cleaning the burners, heat exchanger, blower motor, and air filter. They may also check the thermostat, electrical connections, and safety controls.

4. Can I clean my furnace myself?

While some homeowners may be able to clean their furnace themselves, it is not recommended. Cleaning a furnace requires specialized tools and knowledge of how to safely handle gas or electrical components. It is best to leave it to a professional HVAC technician.

5. How much does it cost to have a furnace cleaned?

The cost of a furnace cleaning can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of furnace, the level of dirt and debris, and the location. On average, a professional furnace cleaning can cost between $80 and $250.

6. What should I look for in a furnace cleaning service?

When choosing a furnace cleaning service, look for a licensed and insured HVAC technician with experience cleaning your specific type of furnace. They should also offer a guarantee for their work and provide a detailed estimate of the services and costs.

7. Can a dirty furnace cause health problems?

A dirty furnace can contribute to poor indoor air quality, which can cause respiratory issues or aggravate allergies or asthma. Additionally, a malfunctioning furnace can release dangerous carbon monoxide gas into your home, which can be fatal.

8. How can I tell if my furnace needs cleaning?

There are several signs that your furnace may need cleaning, such as reduced airflow, strange noises, or a noticeable increase in your energy bill. You may also notice excessive dust or debris around the furnace or a burning smell when it turns on.

9. What can I do to maintain a clean furnace?

Regularly replacing the air filter and keeping the area around the furnace clean can help maintain a clean furnace. Additionally, scheduling annual professional cleanings can help prevent buildup of dirt and debris.

10. Can I prevent the need for furnace cleaning?

While it is not possible to completely prevent the need for furnace cleaning, there are several steps you can take to reduce the frequency. These include changing the air filter regularly, keeping the area around the furnace clean, and scheduling regular maintenance checks with a professional HVAC technician.

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