Removing Dust From Your Furnace Increases Efficiency. Here's How You Can Do It

If you own a furnace, you'll need to keep it dust-free. Small particles of dust come in the air intake, and some will make it through the air filter and into the furnace's combustion chamber.

When dust builds up in your furnace, it degrades its efficiency. Dusty burners no longer receive the right air flow mixture, so the gas won't combust cleanly. This impairs efficiency and increases the amount of toxic gases (such as carbon monoxide) that it produces. A dusty furnace can also decrease the air quality in your home by circulating dust around the interior. Read on for a guide to cleaning your home's furnace in order to keep it dust-free and operating well.

Make Sure the Furnace Can't Turn On

If you have an electric furnace, turn the power off at the breaker. For gas furnaces, turn the natural gas supply off. This keeps you safe while you're cleaning it by preventing the furnace from turning on. Make sure no one else in your home accidentally turns the power back on to the furnace while you're in the process of cleaning it.

You should also make sure that the furnace is cool to the touch before you begin to clean it — leave it off for a few hours beforehand. Incidentally, this is the reason why it's best to clean your furnace in the fall before you need to use it. It also gives you a chance to inspect the furnace for problems and repair them before the colder months.

Vacuum the Combustion Chamber

Next, remove the access panel from your furnace — most of them simply slide off. Once the panel is removed, you'll need to remove all of the dust from the combustion chamber. The best way to do this is by vacuuming it out using either a hand-held vacuum or a stand-up vacuum with a hose attachment. While you're vacuuming, be careful not to accidentally bump anything inside the furnace.

Remove the Blower Fan and Clean It

After you've cleaned all of the dust out of the combustion chamber, you'll need to remove the blower fan in order to clean it. Some newer furnaces have rail-mounted blower fans that easily slide out. For older furnaces, you'll need to remove the bolts on the blower fan's cage using a socket wrench.

In either case, remove the blower fan's cage and then clean the fan using a soft-bristled brush. Blower fans collect dust easily, and it's important to regularly clean them in order for your furnace to operate efficiently. Dusty blower fans become unbalanced, which overworks the blower fan motor and causes it to fail.

Replace the blower fan's cage, if necessary, and bolt it back into the combustion chamber.

Replace the Air Filter

Next, you'll need to replace the air filter that's next to your furnace's blower fan. Your furnace is only rated for a limited number of air filters, so it's important to replace the air filter with an appropriate one. You can find this information in your furnace's manual, which you can most often look up online. If you don't know which air filters your furnace supports, just replace it with one that has the exact same size and density.

At this point, you've successfully removed the vast majority of dust inside your furnace and prevented more from coming in by replacing the air filter. You should repeat these steps every month while you're using your furnace in order to keep it operating efficiently. However, your furnace should receive a deeper cleaning at least once a year.

In a deep cleaning, components of your furnace such as the heat sensor, pilot light, and hot-surface ignitor need to be cleaned individually. However, this is best left to professional furnace cleaning services—these components are easy to damage or knock out of position. You can keep all of the dust out of your furnace's combustion chamber and off of your blower fan on your own, but your furnace needs professional attention in order to be truly clean. Contact a company that provides furnace cleaning services in order to learn more.