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How to Clean Heat Pump: Step to Step Guide

Your furnace or heat pump is the engine that keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer. It is also one of the essential functions in your home. This means you need to take care of it, including regular maintenance (e.g., cleaning) to keep it running smoothly throughout the year. But what if you don’t know how to do it? Check out these simple ways to start maintaining your furnace/heat pump to keep it running at its best performance all year round.

 

Check the Filters

This is a simple and easy first step. Check the air filters in your furnace/heat pump once a month, making sure they are dirty enough that you can still see light through them, but not so dirty that they obstruct airflow. If you have electronic filters or filters with screens, be extra careful when cleaning them to avoid damaging the screens.


If they are dirty, replace them. You can buy disposable filters or washable filters – just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging the furnace/heat pump. If you have pets, you may need to clean the filters more frequently. Pet hair and dander can clog the filters faster and reduce airflow through the furnace/heat pump, making it harder to keep your home comfortable.

 

In addition to checking the filters, you should also clean all the grates on the furnace/heat pump vents. Just like the air filters, these grates can quickly become clogged, meaning the airflow used for heating or cooling your home will be reduced.

 

Clean the Coils

Every furnace/heat pump has a fan and some form of a heat exchanger, typically with one or more exposed long coils outside that can become cold when it’s hot outside. Over time, dust can accumulate on these coils, reducing their heat transfer efficiency. You can use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment or a coil brush to clean the coils. Make sure to remove all dirt and dust but be careful not to damage the fins on the coils.


If your furnace/heat pump has an outdoor unit, you should check the fins there too. Insects often build nests inside the outdoor unit, which can obstruct airflow to the furnace/heat pump. You should also use a brush or vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to clean any dust or dirt on the outdoor unit’s fan blades.

 

While cleaning the coils and fins, you should also check for any ice or snow accumulation on the outdoor unit. If there’s a lot of ice, it may indicate that your furnace/heat pump is not working correctly and has difficulty dissipating heat.

 

heat pump installation

Keep the Flue Clean

The flue of your furnace/heat pump is the pipe that extends upward along the chimney or exhaust vent, where combustion gases are emitted to the outside air. If it gets dirty, the airflow through the furnace/heat pump may be restricted, resulting in reduced heating and cooling efficiency! You can use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment or a chimney brush to keep the flue clean.


If you have a gas furnace/heat pump, check the flue vent at least twice a year to ensure there are no obstructions. For those using oil or propane furnaces/heat pumps, also check for obstructions in the chimney connected to the outdoor unit. Additionally, be aware that if your furnace/heat pump is located in an area with a lot of snow, like Flower Mound, Texas, it can cause the flue to freeze and restrict airflow. Besides cleaning the flue, you should also check for any obstructions at the exhaust vent. Debris like leaves or branches can quickly accumulate and obstruct airflow.

 

Keep the Area Clean

If you have a gas furnace/heat pump, you may notice that debris around or on it can become very hot. This is because the fan blows air over this part of the heat exchanger to preheat it before distributing it through your home via the duct system in the floors, walls, or ceilings. Therefore, if there’s a lot of debris near the furnace/heat pump, they may be sucked into the fan and cause it to overwork. This will increase your electricity bill and shorten the life of the furnace/heat pump.


To prevent this from happening, you should ensure the area around the furnace/heat pump is free of any vegetation or debris at least once a year. If your home is in a heavily treed area or there are low-hanging tree branches nearby, you may need to do it twice.

 

In addition to keeping the area clean, you should also make sure the furnace/heat pump is located in a well-ventilated area. Failure to do so could cause the equipment to overheat and shorten its lifespan.

 

Check for Duct Leaks

A significant portion of the heating and cooling process occurs after your furnace/heat pump heats or cools the air and sends it into your home through ducts. If there are any leaks in the ducts, it means some conditioned air will escape before reaching where you need it. This can lead to increased energy costs and discomfort in the home.


You can use a duct leak tester or even your hand to check for leaks. If you feel cold air coming out of the vents when the furnace/heat pump is off, it indicates a leak somewhere in the duct system. You can usually fix duct leaks with some caulk or insulation tape. If the leaks are significant, you may need to replace parts of the duct system.

 

In addition to checking for leaks, you should also clean the duct system every few years. This will help improve the furnace/heat pump’s efficiency and enhance overall comfort in the home by reducing dust buildup, which can cause allergies and more frequent heating or cooling cycles.

 

Clean the Flame Sensor

If you have a gas furnace/heat pump, the flame sensor tells your furnace/heat pump when to turn on or off when your home needs heat. If it becomes misaligned or dirty, it may fail to get consistent readings and shorten the equipment’s lifespan. You can use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment or a cotton swab to clean it.
Besides cleaning the flame sensor, you should also check for obstructions every few months. If anything is blocking the sensor’s line of sight, your furnace/heat pump will fail to open correctly, leading to potentially high electricity bills.

 

Clean the Heat Exchanger Blocks

If you have a forced-air furnace/heat pump, the heat exchanger blocks will distribute conditioned air throughout your entire home. If not cleaned regularly, dust and debris can accumulate on this part of the equipment, reducing its efficiency and shortening its lifespan. You should clean it at least every few years.
You can use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment or a brush to clean it. Be sure to remove all dust and debris from the fins on the heat exchanger blocks; otherwise, they will accumulate again over time.

 

In addition to cleaning the heat exchanger blocks, you should also check for obstructions around them every few months. If anything is obstructing the airflow, your furnace/heat pump will fail to properly distribute conditioned air throughout your home, and you may experience increased energy costs.

 

Conclusion

While cleaning your furnace/heat pump may not be the most enjoyable task, reducing energy costs and extending equipment life is crucial. If you follow these steps regularly, they should be sufficient to keep them in good condition for many years.

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