How to Clean A Furnace Heat Exchanger

How to Clean A Furnace Heat Exchanger

How to Clean A Furnace Heat Exchanger

If you were also wondering about the ideal method for how to clean a furnace heat exchanger, then you have landed on the most trusted platform.

Furnace heat exchangers are an essential but often overlooked part of HVAC systems. Their main function is the transmission of heat from a particular medium to another specific medium. Having said that, they tend to perform the most crucial task, no matter whether it is summer or winter. 

Without proper heat exchange, the HVAC systems will not work at their best. While talking about its cleanliness, it often gets overlooked and ultimately leaves an adverse impact on surrounding parts. Keeping that in mind, this comprehensive guide has been prepared to help readers learn how to clean a furnace heat exchanger most efficiently. 

What is a Furnace Heat Exchanger? 

Before we start evaluating the method on how to clean a furnace heat exchanger, the possibility remains that you do not know much about it. Let us delve deeper into what a furnace heat exchanger is, along with the multiple types available and the functionality it offers. All these factors will be elaborated on in the upcoming sections.

Well, to elaborate on a furnace heat exchanger, it is the main source that allows hot air all around your home in the winter season. It is the furnace heat exchanger’s sole responsibility to provide heat to chambers and the entire house. The working mechanism of your furnace heat exchanger is extremely simple.

When the ignitors and flames are present inside the furnace, when started, heat the entire system and come up with hot air. This warm air is circulated through the ducts and metal coils installed in the furnace. This hot air gets into a larger room when it gets into the coils and metal ducts, allowing the house to get warmer.

Different Heat Exchanger Types 

Without knowing the category of your heat exchanger, you might find it quite daunting to deal with cleaning and maintenance issues. To ease your efforts, we have outlined the basic and most common categories of furnace heat exchangers available. By getting a deeper navigation of types, you may optimize your cleaning process easily. 

1. Shelled and Tube: 

his type of heat exchanger is often found in the industrial sector namely refineries, manufacturing, production, etc. It has the shape of a shell that consists of tubes within it. 

2. Double Piped: 

Wherever there is the need for low-pressure applications, double-piped furnace heat exchangers come in handy. It consists of two concentric pipes following the basic functionality of the heat exchangers. 

3. Spiral:

These are somewhat flat plates making coiled spiral channels. This one remains to be suitable for fluids and gases with high viscosity.

4. Regenerative:

These heat exchangers are appropriate for HVAC applications and industrial sectors. They come up with heat-rejecting and heat-absorption properties allowing the heat in the furnace to recover heat as well. 

5. Frame and Plate:

The metal pallets of these heat exchanger types are available with a frame and plate. These allow proper rotation between hot and cold channels. This tendency makes them the most appropriate choice for refrigerators, HVAC, and food processing systems.

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Why is a Clean Furnace Heat Exchanger Essential?

Now that we know various categories in which heat exchangers are widely used, knowing the reasons to clean them also becomes worth considering. When you do not know the purpose of doing a particular task, you might not perform the best in it. So, evaluate the major reasons to keep the furnace heat exchanger clean here:

Many people often consider that annual maintenance is enough to keep the furnace heat exchanger in the best condition. However, the reality is not limited here, as without a regular cleaning schedule, it will only lack its performance capability. Dirt and residual buildup will hinder the heat exchange by choking the metal tubes.

Besides the overburden on the system, energy consumption will also take a boost, resulting in increased bills. It is always better to cut down on these utility costs by opting for regular cleaning arrangements. HVAC systems are installed for improved air quality, but what if this is hindered due to improper maintenance?

Any uncertain factor causing issues with the furnace heat exchanger or the entire system will significantly impact the air quality of the particular space. Having said that poor air quality is neither good for respiratory health nor it will maintain a good indoor environment. To meet these concerns, a clean furnace heat exchanger becomes unexceptionally important. 

Furthermore, your health is at stake when you are breathing in such exhausting air quality. The chemicals and dirt particles released are hazardous to the respiratory system and deteriorate the condition of asthmatic people. Chemicals like carbon monoxide majorly affect the pre-existing issues. The potential symptoms may be noticed as nausea, headaches, etc. 

Potential Risk Factors Include:

  • Deteriorated Performance of the HVAC Systems
  • Contamination of the entire heat exchanger
  • Inappropriate heat and temperature fluctuations 
  • Energy costs will reach unexpected levels
  • Multiple Health Risks and Potential Respiratory Issues
  • Worsen Air Quality

Potential Signs of the Issue Factors 

Your furnace heat exchanger gives you significant symptoms and signs when it is not in a constant state. The sole responsibility is not to avoid those signs and opt for the required steps rapidly. Some are mentioned here:

Improper Heating: 

You must be aware of some potential issues when you notice an uneven heat supply in different locations of your house. Improper and uneven heating is the result of accumulated dirt and debris inside the furnace heat exchanger. 

Burning Odors:

Burning smells or poor odors are probably the result of unclean and dirty heat exchangers. When any random source gets extremely dirty, it starts smelling unpleasant. If you also observe any such smell, it is far better to opt for a meticulous investigation and detect the source of that smell. 

Enhanced Utility Bills:

If you are dealing with an uncertain increase in utility bills, then the potential culprit could be your furnace heat exchanger. When dirt is excessively accumulated, it obstructs the air pathway, making it harder to work and increasing consumption.

Rust Buildup:

A visual inspection is enough to get an insight into the cleanliness of your furnace heat exchanger. Take a random look at the furnace, and you will know whether it requires cleaning or not

Random Cycling:  

Inappropriate functioning of the system is also potentially a sign of disgraded cleanliness. Uneven and extreme residual buildup will reduce the work efficiency compensating which the cycling process will get increased.

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How to Clean a Furnace Heat Exchanger: Detailed Explanation

Here comes the awaited part of how to clean a furnace heat exchanger guide. When you are opting for cleaning techniques and procedures, the advice is not to simply stick to a particular part; instead, inspect each component thoroughly so that your cleaning can be completed optimally.

Let us first learn about the inspection process and the supplies that might help accomplish the cleaning process. The subsequent section will include the detailed process of how to clean a furnace heat exchanger most efficiently.

Assembling Protective Gear and Cleaning Supplies

Since you are now all set on your goal of how to clean a furnace heat exchanger, you may get a break if you do not have the most prominent tool in hand. Worry not as we have outlined a list of some core pieces of equipment. Additionally, you can get a recommendation for the protective gear as you would be handling a technical device.

Cleaning Tools: 

  • Canister of Compressed Air
  • Damp Clothes 
  • Vacuum Cleaner With Multiple Attachments 
  • Machine Oil
  • Soft-bristle Brush 
  • Screw Drivers 
  • Paper Towels 

Protective Equipment:

It is worth noting that the cleaning process of the furnace heat exchanger cannot be accomplished without ensuring your safety. This is where protective gear will be required. The list will include these items:

  • Safety Goggles
  • Dust Mask
  • Rubber or Plastic Gloves

Process of How to Clean Furnace Heat Exchangers Described

To start with the process, stay ready putting on all the protective equipment. Before starting consider that the process is not technical and complicated whilst suitable for you to accomplish. Take utmost time going through the guidelines suggested by the manufacturer to avoid accidents. 

When you are completely satisfied, begin with the succeeding steps while ensuring your safety and successful cleaning: 

Step 1: Detecting the Location and Get Access

Safety has the utmost importance and checking this must be your first step as well. Take a look at all the susceptible energy suppliers and ensure each of them is switched off. Take the help of a tester to guarantee this. Following this start locating the furnace heat exchanger. 

You can best get an insight into this from the user guide. When done correctly, you might have access to the panels. Use appropriate tools to disassemble the parts if they are obstructing the way to the furnace heat exchanger. 

Step 2: Brushing Loose Residual Components

When you have access to the furnace heat exchanger, simply rub it using the soft-bristled brush. This will help you eliminate any developed residual layer without harming the parts of your furnace. This step is often taken as optional but in many situations, it has been solely enough to clean up the residues. 

Step 3: Vacuum Cleaning Process

In this instance, if using a brush has not cleaned your furnace heat exchanger, then the vacuum cleaner will do. Taking into consideration the state of the furnace, the pressure of the vacuum cleaner needs to be set. You can also use the brush to eliminate loose debris and then give an in-depth cleaning using the vacuum suction

Step 4: Reassembling 

Until now, the cleaning process has been completed effectively. Consider inspecting the furnace heat exchanger once before reassembling the parts. This could be done accurately by following the manual instructions. Lastly, allow the power supply to the HVAC system and review its mechanism. 

Need For Professional Assistance

Maintaining regular cleaning timelines for your furnace heat exchanger is an appreciable thought but have you given a thought to professional cleaning and maintenance? As said regular cleaning keeps the furnace in the optimal state, what to do with the other components of your HVAC system? 

The question arises: will their improper functionality not cause harm to the heat exchanger? As you are not an expert or professional, you will likely commit mistakes. To keep yourself protected from all of these factors, consider seeking professional assistance at least once annually.

Professional experts have a keen insight into the cleaning and maintenance requirements of the entire HVAC system. They will also help you with the technical aspects and allow you to learn how to clean a furnace heat exchanger. Professional assistance is a must whenever the season changes.

Wrapping It Up: How to Clean a Furnace Heat Exchanger 

Lastly, we would expect that your question about how to clean a furnace heat exchanger has been answered till now. Choosing the right pieces tools and other supplies plays a key role in the entire cleaning process. Without compromising the techniques and other potential strands, you may get the optimistic cleaning with the aforementioned steps.

Furnace heat exchangers tend to be an unavoidable part of your HVAC system but are often ignored until their performance starts deteriorating. Now, when you are aware of the prospects of a poorly kept furnace heat exchanger, get an exhaustive cleaning and make the finest of your HVAC systems. 

Carrie N. Thomas

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