How to Keep Your Furnace or Heat Pump Clean

January 20, 2022
Furnace Cleaning in Seattle, WA

Wintertime in Seattle may range from mild and rainy weather to frigid and snowy weather with wind and squalls of blinding snow. You’ll need a properly functioning heat pump or furnace to keep your home safe and comfortable throughout the winter season. An important part of operating your heat pump or furnace is keeping it clean. Take these steps to ensure that your home’s heating system is clean this winter.

Clean the Vent Covers

Each room in your home has return and supply vents. These vents connect to your home’s ductwork, and the ducts connect to the air handler portion of your furnace or heat pump. Debris on the vents can make its way into the heat pump or furnace, which is why these parts need regular cleaning. Use a screwdriver to remove the vent cover. Mix a solution of warm water and biodegradable dish soap. Dip the vent covers into the soapy solution. Wipe them dry with a clean microfiber cloth. Vacuum the vent openings and return the covers to their correct places.

Change the Air Filter

The most important action you can take to maintain a clean heat pump or furnace is to check its air filter once each month. Most furnaces and heat pumps use disposable filters, but some have reusable units. Set a monthly reminder on your phone or calendar to check the filter. The HVAC filter is typically located in a small compartment of the air handler. If you’re unsure of where it is, the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website will show its location. Once there’s visible debris or dust on the filter, it’s time for a replacement or cleaning. Don’t go longer than three months between filter cleanings or changes.

To replace a disposable air filter, slide the dirty filter out of the housing. In Seattle, the cardboard portions of air filters can be recycled in your home’s regular recycling pickup. Insert a new filter into the housing. Take care to line up the arrows so that the filter is properly oriented in the compartment.

To clean a reusable filter, slide it out of the housing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on acceptable cleaning solutions. Some filters can be cleaned with biodegradable dish detergent, while others require a special cleaning product. Do not bleach the air filter. Bleach degrades the air filter’s fiberglass and plastic components and reduces its effectiveness at trapping particles and sequestering them.

Vacuum the Blower

While you have the air filter housing open, vacuum the air handler’s blower chamber. Both heat pumps and furnaces have an air handler with a blower chamber. Any dust that falls off the filter is easy to remove with a vacuum cleaner’s extension hose. Open the blower compartment and use the vacuum cleaner’s brush to remove dust and debris buildup from the fan blades and the walls and floor of the compartment.

Vacuum the Burner Cavity

Gas furnaces use burners to maintain a flame and produce heat. Incomplete combustion causes soot and ash to accumulate in the burner cavity. If the soot and ash aren’t removed, it impedes heat absorption in the heat exchanger and may cause the furnace’s motor to overheat. Turn off the furnace. Make sure the gas and pilot light are off. Use the vacuum cleaner to suction the soot and ash out of the burner cavity. If you’re unsure of how to turn off the gas supply or burners of your furnace, leave this task to qualified HVAC technicians.

Some other actions you can take to keep your furnace clean:

  • Remove belongings from within three feet of the furnace
  • Check the outdoor flue opening for debris
  • Clear flammable items away from the furnace

Clean the Evaporator Coils

Heat pumps contain two sets of coils. One set is in the outdoor unit, and the other is in the indoor unit. The evaporator coils are in the indoor unit. Turn off power to the heat pump. Remove the access panel to the cabinet. This may require a nut driver or screwdriver. You may need to remove the top panel to access the coil. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for cleaning the coil. Some allow the use of compressed air, while others recommend a specialty cleaning solution or wet/dry vacuum. Be sure to read the owner’s manual closely. Some manufacturer warranties will be void if you attempt to clean the coils yourself. The indoor coils are fragile, and it’s usually best to leave the cleaning to experienced professionals.

Clean the Condenser Coils

The condenser coils are in the outdoor unit. To clean them, you’ll need to remove the unit’s grille. Make sure the heat pump’s power is off before you remove the grill. Turn off the heat pump’s power at the switch, then turn off power to the heat pump at the circuit breaker box. Use a screwdriver to remove the grille. Sweep the coils with a specialty coil cleaning brush. Next, use a cleaning solution specially made for heat pump coils to remove sticky residue and stubborn dirt. Rinse the coils with your garden hose.

Wash the Grille

Once the coils are clean, it’s time to wash the grille. Begin by using a brush to sweep and align the fins. Next, use the garden hose with a spray attachment to wash the grille. Reattach the grille to the outdoor unit.

Sanitize the Condensate Line

While the heat pump is turned off, take a few minutes to clean the condensate line. The condensate pipe is indoors. It’s a PVC pipe connected to the air handler. The other end empties into your home’s wastewater drain. Disconnect the pipe. Pour a 10% bleach solution into the pipe. Use a long brush to scrub muck and loosen debris. Flush the pipe clean with tap water. Reconnect the pipe.

Additional actions you can take to keep your heat pump clean this winter:

  • Wipe dust off the top of the indoor unit
  • Remove belongings within three feet of the indoor unit
  • Trim tree branches at least three feet away from the outdoor unit
  • Cut vegetation away from the outdoor unit
  • Clear snow and ice from the outdoor unit in the winter

Schedule a Professional Tune-up

In addition to the furnace and heat pump cleaning tasks you can do on your own, it’s important to schedule a professional heating system tune-up once each year. We recommend an autumn tune-up for your heat pump or furnace. If you forgot to schedule the autumn tune-up, don’t worry. It’s never too late for heating system maintenance. Our maintenance services include a complete cleaning of your heat pump or furnace, lubrication of its moving parts, system performance and safety test, and more.

Not in need of heating maintenance today? We also offer air conditioner maintenance and heating and cooling repair, replacement, and installation in Seattle. Our water heater, electrical, and duct cleaning services will keep your home comfortable, clean, and energy-efficient all year long. To learn more about how to clean a furnace or heat pump, contact us at Brennan Heating & Air Conditioning today.

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