calgary furnace maintenance alpha plumbing

Furnace Maintenance 101: Furnace Cleaning Tips

Preparing to clean your furnace can seem like a daunting task. Your furnace may feel like an alien in your own home, and you likely don’t know where to start with the maintenance process. Here is a step-by-step guide to furnace maintenance that will keep your furnace running efficiently for years to come. 

Why do I need to clean my furnace?

Cleaning your furnace is a critical part of regular home maintenance to reduce energy costs and keep your home running efficiently. A furnace that is clogged with dust and grime will take more energy to heat your home than one that has been cleaned and maintained properly. Additionally, maintaining the condition of your furnace means that you can avoid the costly repair bills that come from an over-worked and under-maintained furnace.

There are 3 key components of a furnace that must be maintained.

Please note: for all furnace maintenance make sure to turn off the power to the furnace to avoid electric shock. If you have questions or concerns about how to ensure your furnace is disconnected from any power source, you should refer to the users manual or contact a professional Calgary plumber.
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The Furnace Filter

Must be replaced 3-4 times per year

  • The first step to replacing your furnace filter will be locating the access panel for the filter. This will normally be at the front of your furnace and may be behind a panel that must be unscrewed. Please refer to your specific model’s user guide to locate the filter panel. 
  • Once visible, you may now remove the furnace filter from its housing. It should slide out of its tracks without any excessive force. Do not pull aggressively on the filter as this may cause damage to the furnace or the filter. Inspect the area for any debris that may cause blockage. 
  • You are now able to examine your furnace filter and judge if it must be replaced. Hold your filter up to a light source; if you are unable to see through it, the filter must be cleaned or replaced depending on the type of filter. There are 2 types of furnace filters and they must be treated differently when dirty. 
  • Disposable – simply dispose of this filter and replace it with a new one. We recommend taking your old filter to your local hardware store to ensure you are buying the correct replacement. 
  • Reusable – this filter can be washed with a mild soap, left to dry completely and replaced. 
  • Once cleaned/replaced you can now re-install your furnace filter. It should slide easily back into its housing. If it will not return to its slot, make sure to examine the area for dirt or debris. Once reinstalled, the housing cover can be replaced. 

The Blower Assembly

  • Before beginning this process, make sure to unplug the furnace and turn off any auxiliary (backup) power to the unit to prevent injury or electrocution. 
  • To access the blower assembly you will most likely have to remove the entire front panel of the furnace. Please refer to your unit’s maintenance manual for specific blower assembly location and access points. 
  • You can now pull the fan out of the overall furnace assembly. The fan should be able to easily slide out on its tracks. If the fan is attached to any wires that are preventing removal, make sure to take a photo and make note of where each of the wires belongs. Some fans may be attached by screws to hold them in the housing. These screws will need to be removed before disassembly. 
  • Clean the blower assembly using a mild soap, a cloth, and a toothbrush. We recommend scrubbing off the dust with a dry toothbrush first and catching the fly away dust with a nearby vacuum cleaner before using soap and water make the cleaning process easier. It is also a good idea to vacuum the fan assembly before returning it to the housing as well. The same toothbrush and vacuum process can be followed
  • Once all parts are clean and completely dry, you can now return the blower assembly into the furnace. Make sure to reconnect all wires to the correct area before plugging the furnace back in.

The Heat Exchanger Block

  • Make sure all power to the furnace unit has been disconnected before beginning this process. Note: If your furnace is a gas furnace, the gas should also be turned off. Please refer to your owner’s manual if you do not know the type of furnace you own. 
  • The heat exchanger is also located in the front of the furnace. It can normally be found behind a panel screwed on the front. The heat exchanger block is something resembling a bulky metal panel. You will need to remove the heat exchanger to clean it which means disconnecting the tubes connect to the exchanger. Take photos and create yourself a diagram in order to remember where each piece belongs. We also recommend using tape to label each of the tubes to make re-installation easier. Use a vacuum cleaner before removing the assembly to reduce the amount of dust spread around your furnace during the removal process. 
  • Once removed, you can now use a vacuum to carefully remove dust over the entire unit that has accumulated. You can now take a soapy brush to clean the black residue that has built up on the heat exchanger. Make sure to clean each chamber of the block. 
  • You can now reinstall your heater block. Make sure it has completely dried before reinstalling. Refer to your chart and photos to ensure that proper reconnection occurs.

While this may seem like a lot of steps, this process does not have to happen frequently. We recommend cleaning your furnace at the beginning of the fall season so that it is ready to go for our cold Calgary winters. This is also a great chance to make sure everything is working properly before you find out your furnace is broken when temperatures drop.  

If the steps in the process of cleaning your furnace still seem daunting, the professionals at Alpha Plumbing can assist you. With years of experience, our licensed and certified technicians can clean, maintain, inspect, and install any furnace in your home in time for winter. To learn more and book a visit for a free estimate, call Alpha Plumbing today.

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