Cleaning An Oil Furnace Heat Exchanger: Maintenance Guide
Cleaning out an oil furnace is essential to getting the most out of your heating system. John Cipollone Inc. has been in the heating and air conditioning business since 1953 and started primarily dealing with oil heating. I personally have been working with oil furnaces for about 15+ years, and have plenty of experience cleaning with furnace heat exchanger cleaning and service.
We know that regular cleaning and maintenance of your heating system and heat exchanger will help to extend the life of your system and provide you with safe, comfortable heat on demand.
Why is Regular Cleaning Essential For An Oil Fired Furnace And Its Heat Exchanger?
Regular cleaning of your oil-fired furnace and the heat exchanger is an essential part of home maintenance. Oil heat is derived from burning a combustible fuel, which means it creates soot and residue. If you want a clean furnace, it requires special attention yearly.
Importance of Cleaning Within An Oil Fired Furnace
During the course of a heating season, your oil fired furnace is burning combustible fuel. That means that it is leaving behind soot deposits as well as the normal build up of dust.
These sooty deposits serve to block heat transfer from the combustion chamber into the heat exchanger making your heat output less efficient over time. Plus, these deposits contain sulfur residue. This sulfur residue can result in an unwanted “ rotten egg” or sulfur smell drafting through the system.
During the non- heating season, this sulfur combines with moisture, dirt and other debris to create a corrosive material that can attach itself to the heat exchanger accelerating the wear and tear on the exchanger.
A regular cleaning just after the season’s heating cycle can remove the built up soot and sulfur residue, helping to prevent any unnecessary corrosion and reduce wear and tear. Furnace soot cleanup is fairly simple, but essential to keeping your system running as well as it should!
Understanding The Role Of The Oil Furnace Heat Exchanger
We already spoke about the dangers of soot buildup on the heat exchanger. To help you appreciate the importance of regular maintenance, it is important to understand just how critical the heat exchanger is to the overall furnace operation.
Heat exchangers work by transferring heat from one place to another. That is the basic element of “heat transfer”. When a furnace burns its combustible fuel, such as oil or gas, its exhaust (flue gas) enters and travels through the heat exchanger.
The hot flue gas heats the metal as the gas travels to the exhaust outlet of the furnace. The hot metal heats the air circulating over the exterior of the heat exchanger and pushes that heat into your home. The exhausted gasses containing carbon monoxide gas among others are pushed out the flue.
This is why we clean the heat exchanger, and we also do a furnace tube cleaning. This ensures that the flue and pathways for gas are clear and not forcing a leak into your home.
Factors Impacting Heat Exchanger Performance
Regular maintenance will help to ensure that your furnace heat exchanger is working in tip-top shape, producing heat and exhausting gas safely. Here are a few factors that will impact how well your heat exchanger works.
Testing Heat Exchanger for Inefficient (Dirty) Performance
A maintenance inspection will look for holes, crack, or other deterioration. Deterioration failures can permit leakage and the mixing of flue gas with the air being heated. This can result in incomplete combustion, and the formation of carbon monoxide and other harmful by-products such as elevated levels of CO making it unsafe to operate.
Identifying a Clogged Heat Exchanger: Signs to Watch For
The only thorough way to determine if your heat exchanger has gone bad is to have a professional inspection. But there are some telltale signs that the homeowner can watch for.
- Strange smells
- Soot Build-up
- Corrosion & Cracks
- Change in the flame appearance – A yellow flame instead of a blue flame often indicates inefficient operation.
- Condensation build-up or staining
Tools Required For Cleaning An Oil Furnace
Proper cleaning of an oil furnace requires proper tools. Each surface must be checked and cleaned. We have provided a list of tools that are needed, and don’t forget to turn off the power supply first.
- Wire brush to loosen sooty surfaces
- Shop vac to vacuum up sooty surfaces
- Nut driver
- Strap wrench for loosening extra tight connections
While you may be tempted to service your furnace yourself, we recommend calling in a professional. The gas byproducts of combustion furnaces such as oil or gas furnaces make safety a real priority.
Heating Oil Furnace Service: Average Costs
The average cost of a full oil furnace service can vary from $250 to $500. If replacement parts and repairs are needed it will obviously become more expensive. Let’s look at what goes into this service call.
Furnace Tune-up: An Essential Part of Maintenance
Your home’s indoor air comfort depends on the quality and condition of your furnace. So it is important to make sure that your furnace is operating as it should – and that means seasonal maintenance. Here are some steps that go into maintenance:
- Inspect the Heat Exchanger and CO Detector – a heat exchanger with cracks is not only inefficient, but it is also dangerous. Letting CO or carbon monoxide into the house is deadly. Make sure to change out the CO detector batteries annually
- Clean the oil burners from soot, dust, and debris
- Clean the flue pipe, furnace tubes, and vents. Flues and vents should be cleaned yearly to remove dust and debris that could potentially pose a fire risk.
- If your system has a humidifier, make sure that the condensate lines are open and clean.
- Change the air filter (something you should do yourself 4 times a year)
- Inspect the fan and make sure that it is working and free of debris
- Lubricate all parts
- Seal air leaks
- Check the thermostat to make sure that it is running accurately
If you would like help with your furnace, give us a call at (610) 446-7877, or go online to schedule an appointment.