Do you want to clean your furnace burners, but aren’t sure what the steps are? We’re here to help!
Cleaning your furnace burners is an important maintenance step for your furnace, and sufficiently dirty burners can actually stop your furnace from working at all! Ideally you should clean your furnace burners at the start of every cold season (when your thermostat will call for warm air).
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What is a furnace burner?
- Supplies you’ll need to clean your furnace burners
- How to clean your furnace burners (6-step guide)
What You Need To Know About Cleaning your Furnace Burners
What is a furnace burner?
Furnace burners are cylindrical components of your furnace made out of metal, housed within a burner box inside your furnace.
The burners help mix the fuel for the furnace with the air in the unit to warm your home.
Note: The number of burners in any furnace varies; smaller homes may have two or three burners, while larger homes can have upwards of five or six.
No matter how many burners you have, it’s important to keep them clean. If they get too dirty, they can actually prevent the furnace from working entirely (more on that below).
Supplies You’ll Need to Clean your Furnace Burners
1. Power drill (or alternatively, a small wrench) – This is used to help us access the burners. As mentioned above, the burners are housed in a burner box that is in turn held in place with screws.
A power drill will help you quickly unscrew the burner box to access the burners. If you don’t have a power drill, a small wrench could work in a pinch, but will take you longer and could be much more difficult depending on the placement of your burner box and the screws that hold it in place.
2. Flexible drill bit extension: This extension attaches to your power drill and lets you use your power drill on screws that are in hard-to-reach places. These are inexpensive extensions for your drill and can really speed up the process of getting to your burners.
3. Brass Brush – This handy tool is what we’ll use to actually remove the debris from the burner.
4. Bottle of Compressed Air – This will remove any remaining dust or debris from the burner
How To Clean your Furnace Burners (6 Steps)
Step 1: Turn off all power to the furnace
Safety first! Before you can clean your burners, make sure the power to the furnace is turned off. You can do this by either turning off the furnace power switch (most furnaces have one), or by turning off the power from the breaker.
Step 2: Remove the Furnace Doors
These are the doors (sometimes called “access panels”) that protect the internal components of the furnace.
This is pretty straightforward, but different furnace doors come of in different ways. Some are spring-loaded and slide off, while some have screws or knobs.
Step 3: Locate your burners
Depending on your furnace, you may have burners that are housed within a “shielded” burner box. That is to say, the burners are hidden within a metal casing secured with a “door” that is screwed in place.
Alternatively, your burners may be open such that you can see them immediately once you remove the furnace doors. In this case, the burners will typically be held in place with a bracket that is in turn held in place with screws.
Notice exactly how the burners were placed in the furnace (which side was face-up and which side was face-down), as well as how the burner box or bracket was held in place.
Pro tip: take a picture to help you remember! This will be important after you clean the burners, when you put them back.
Step 4: Open the burner box (or remove the burner bracket)
Use your power drill or small wrench to remove the screws holding your burners in place. If you just have a burner bracket, this could be straightforward.
In other cases, getting to the burners can be more involved (e.g. if you have a burner box).
In certain cases, the only way to get to the burner box is by first removing other components of the furnace first (such as the gas valve, etc.)
Step 5: Remove the burners from the furnace
Once there are no longer any restraints holding the burners in place, you can remove the burners from your furnace.
As mentioned above, your burners may each be standalone pieces, or they may be held together as one larger metal sheet.
You may want to hold the burners over some newspaper or over a trash bin before beginning to clean the burner (to simplify clean up).
Step 6: Clean the burners
Take your brass brush and scrub vigorously along the face of each burner (and along the length of the burner, if needed).
If it’s been a while since your burners have been cleaned, you’ll likely notice a visible change in the color and texture of the burners as debris that has been caked on falls away.
Be sure to also scrub along the “wings” of the burner. Whether they’re actually connected or not, all burners have “wings” that allow the flame that heats your home travel for one burner to the next, and eventually to your flame sensor.
The flame sensor’s job is to detect whether there is in fact a flame in the furnace, and shut the furnace down if not (for safety reasons).
Eventually, if your burners get so dirty that the flame can’t travel across all the burners to your flame sensor, the flame sensor will think that there’s no flame in the furnace, and will shut the unit down.
This could be why everything seems to run well in your furnace, but there’s no heat getting to your home!
As a last step, use your bottle of compressed air to remove any flakes or remnants of debris that may still be blocking the burner.
Once you’ve done all that, you’ve successfully cleaned your furnace burners!
Replace the burners, bracket and / or burner box in the same way you removed them in steps 4 and 5 above. and congratulate yourself on taking a step toward ensuring your furnace keeps running smoothly for years to come.
And remember, it’s a good idea to repeat this process once at the beginning of each cold season as part of routine furnace maintenance.