Inspecting and Cleaning a Gas Furnace Burner

At the start of the winter season, it is important to inspect and clean your furnace in order to clear away any dust or debris that may have collected over the summer months as well as clear any residue that may have been leftover from the previous winter.

With a few simple tools, a yearly or semi-annual cleaning of your furnace is a quick DIY project that will help your furnace to run safely and at its highest efficiency over the course of the season.

What You Will Need

Depending on the type of furnace that you have and the burner style it has, you may need some slightly different tools. For example, you may or may not need a screwdriver in order to remove the top and bottom furnace covers and/or a cover to the burner box (found on high-efficiency furnaces) or other pieces of the assembly (such as the flame shield or gas manifold) that may be blocking your access to the burners. Keep in mind that some furnaces are designed in more “friendly” ways than others. If you open up your furnace and are uncomfortable with the number of parts and pieces that you will have to move in order to access or remove the burners, you can always call in a professional to do the cleaning and inspection for you.

If you have an older furnace with ribbon burners, you can use a simple plastic brush with a long handle in order to clean your burners while they are in place (i.e. without taking them out). If your furnace is more modern and has inshot burners or if you just prefer to remove the ribbon burners to clean them, you can use some sandpaper or a brass brush. Also, with an inspection mirror and a flashlight, it may be possible to clean your inshot burners while in place with a short-handled brass brush or some sandpaper.

In any case, a can of condensed air may come in handy as well.

Cleaning Your Burners

Before you begin, turn off the gas valve and power to the furnace for safety while you are inspecting and cleaning the burners.

After taking off the top and bottom covers of your furnace, decide if you will clean your burners in place or if you would like to take them out. Unless it is exceptionally difficult to remove your inshot burners, it is recommended that you remove them in order to clean them most effectively.

A ribbon burner will come out in one long piece, while inshot burners may be welded together into one long piece or they may come out individually. In any case, pay careful attention to the original orientation of the burners and any brackets holding them in place as you remove each piece; you would not want to put them back in upside down or backward, as even seemingly symmetrical sides may have slight or internal variations that may impact the safety or efficiency of your furnace. Neatly setting the items down in the same direction you pulled them out is the best practice.

In addition to removing any dust or debris from the general area of the burners, you will specifically want to clear the face of the burners and the transition areas (wings) where soot may accumulate. Using your brush or sandpaper, gently scrub these areas. You may also clean the internal structure of the burners with your can of condensed air.

While you are cleaning, look for any signs of rust or grime that you are unable to clear simply by brushing. Also, notice if there are any inconsistencies between the burners; they should all be essentially the same, so an abnormality that sets one apart from the others may be a sign of damage or defect.

While you have the covers off, make sure to glance over the entire system to see if there are any other parts that may need to be repaired or replaced. If needed, replacement burners, igniters, pilot lights, manifolds, blowers, fittings, and other spare parts can be ordered for your furnace and installed with relative ease in most cases.

While your furnace is running, blue flames coming out of your burners are normal. Orange flames are a sign of dust and not a signal for any problems, however, green or any unusual colors may be a sign that something is wrong.

Cleaning the burners of your furnace or replacing some of the minor parts of the system can be a simple do it yourself project, but if you are unsure or have concerns about potential issues or are uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to reach out to an expert for help before continuing or using your furnace. Here at Telco, we are happy to answer any questions you may have about choosing the right replacement parts for your furnace.

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