How to Clean HVAC Heat Exchanger

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Heat exchangers, often found in furnaces and heating systems, are used to warm the air in the room by transferring thermal energy from one medium to another. As the furnace operates day-by-day, the heat exchanger tubes can get particularly dirty.

Dust, debris, and other particles can easily get trapped on heat exchanger plates, and can create problems for the HVAC system. Our heat exchanger cleaning process will help you maintain your HVAC unit so it will function properly longer!

Effects of an Unmaintained HVAC Heat Exchanger

Unmaintained heat exchangers will no longer function properly, and may even cause the entire unit to break down faster. When exposed to high temperatures, layers of dust can also insulate heat, causing the unit to overheat.

  • Overheating HVAC system;
  • Increased energy costs;
  • Degraded heat exchanger performance;
  • Faulty or inadequate temperature transfer;
  • Heat exchanger fouling.

How to Clean a Heat Exchanger: A Step-by-step Process

Step 1: Locate the Heat Exchanger

First, locate the heat exchanger on your HVAC system. You can find the location of your heat exchanger from your user's manual, or by doing a quick search for your furnace model and brand. As this HVAC component handles heat transfer from one medium to another, it is often located by the combustion chamber (gas furnace), or heating coils (electric furnace).

Make sure your furnace is powered off, and is completely closed off from its fuel source before you open it up to access the heat exchanger. Wear safety gear when cleaning heat exchangers, regardless of the type of heat exchanger you may have: plate heat exchangers, shell and tube heat exchangers, etc.

Step 2: Brush Away Any Dirt and Debris

Take a bristled brush, and carefully scrub away any visible dust and debris from the heat exchanger. This will remove the layer of dust surrounding heat transfer surfaces. Scrub the entire heat exchanger until you no longer see any dust stuck to the surface.

Step 3: Vacuum Up the Heat Exchanger

One of the best ways to accomplish heat exchanger cleaning is to vacuum up the dust. Take a shop vacuum cleaner, which has a higher suction power than regular household vacuum cleaners, and remove loose debris as you brush the heat exchanger.

Heat exchangers typically include components like tubes and coils that optimize heat transfer. These should be cleaned as well by brushing the dust off, and using the vacuum cleaner to suction any loose debris for manual cleaning.

Step 4: Wipe Clean with a Damp Cloth

You can get heat exchanger cleaning solutions at your local hardware store, home improvement stores, or online to clean the heat exchanger. Place the solution on a damp cloth, and give the heat exchanger a wipe to remove any remaining debris. These cleaners are formulated to thoroughly clean heat exchangers, and remove build up of dust.

Step 5: Close Up the HVAC, and Power It Up

Once you're satisfied with the cleaning, you can now close up the HVAC, and reconnect it to its power source and fuel source. Turn the HVAC on to check whether the cleaning helped improve the function of your heat exchanger. If not, then you may need to schedule chemical cleaning with professional HVAC technicians.

Looking to clean return air vents? Check this guide.

Proper HVAC Maintenance

Proper maintenance of your HVAC system includes the maintenance and cleaning of several different components within the unit. Professional cleaning is a must for any HVAC system, as professional deep cleaning services often make use of a chemical cleaning process that removes dust and grime from each component, ensuring these parts are working properly.

Let us at Luce Aircon provide proper HVAC maintenance services for you! Our professional HVAC technicians have decades of experience cleaning, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems, so you can have the confidence knowing that we'll make sure your heating and cooling systems are up and running smoothly!

Want more tips on HVAC maintenance? Check out our blog articles on how to clean, maintain, and repair different AC components! 

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