Why Do Furnace Burners Require Cleaning?

Homeowners can handle a few HVAC maintenance tasks pretty easily, including routine filter changes. However, some other tasks require a bit more skill and experience. Burner cleaning is one common task performed by HVAC technicians during annual maintenance visits. While this job isn't hard, it does require some disassembly, which can make it intimidating for inexperienced do-it-yourselfers.

Because it's not a straightforward process, many people neglect cleaning their burners or don't hire an HVAC company to perform annual maintenance. While leaving your burners uncleaned for a year or two is unlikely to stop your furnace from working, there are many reasons why it's important not to ignore this job for too long.

Why Do Burners Need Cleaning?

In a perfect world, your furnace's burners would never need cleaning. An ideal oxygen and fuel mixture will produce a clean burn, keeping your burner nozzles pristine throughout their service lives. Of course, real life is never ideal. Even a furnace operating efficiently and reliably will not always maintain this perfect ratio, meaning combustion products can accumulate on the nozzles.

Other contaminants can also impact your burners. For example, moisture in the furnace can create rust in and around the burners, which can clog the nozzles and create combustion problems. Dust can also sometimes enter the combustion chamber, even if you change your filter regularly, creating another potential source of contamination.

Dirty nozzles will further reduce combustion efficiency and may stop the burner from working if left for long enough. Since manufacturers place flame sensors near the final burner, a single clogged burner will stop your furnace from working. This design is necessary to avoid the potential for unburnt gas leaking into your home.

Should You Hire Someone to Clean Your Burners?

Burner cleaning can be a do-it-yourself job with the right skills, tools, and experience, but it's still something you'll want to consider leaving to a professional. On older furnaces, you may be able to access and clean your burners relatively easily. However, newer furnaces can be more complex, and it's not uncommon for these units to require significant disassembly for burner access.

You may also want to avoid tackling this if you have a high-efficiency furnace. Most high-efficiency furnaces use sealed combustion chambers, adding several additional disassembly steps. While accessing these burners is still relatively easy, you'll need to keep track of numerous fasteners and ensure you reassemble everything exactly as it was before you started.

Fortunately, burner cleaning is usually a standard part of any annual heating maintenance visit. Since it's a good idea to have a professional technician inspect and clean your HVAC equipment at least once per year, you can instead rely on a pro to handle this job. An expert cleaning will save you the trouble of disassembling your furnace and ensure your burners are as clean as possible.

Contact a professional to learn more about heater maintenance