How Long Does It Take To Clean An Oil Furnace?

There are many reasons to install and maintain an oil furnace system in a home. An efficient oil furnace can produce more heat for less fuel than a traditional gas furnace. Furnaces run cleanly, can last up to 30 years with great maintenance, and are a safe heating choice. One of the big factors when it comes to deciding on home systems like heating is their ease of maintenance. We've researched just how long it would take to clean an oil furnace, so you can prepare for the task at the start of the cold season.

The time it takes to clean an oil furnace properly is between 1-3 hours. The duration of the process will depend on who is performing the cleaning, which parts the furnace uses, and how dirty it currently is. This is a larger job and needs to be done cautiously, so set apart at least 1-hour minimum for it to be completed. 

If you're wondering what's involved in an oil furnace cleaning and whether it's something you should tackle on your own, read on to find out.

A household boiler under the basement of a living room, How Long Does It Take To Clean An Oil Furnace?

What Is The Process To Clean An Oil Furnace?

The first step to approaching a furnace for cleaning is to make sure it is turned off and there is no fuel running into it. There is usually a bright red light switch panel near the burner or in the basement somewhere to shut off the oil flow. There is usually a secondary safety measure in the form of a fuel shut-off valve at one of the incoming pipes to the furnace unit. It is extremely important to secure your safety by ensuring no fuel is running into the furnace while you clean it or maintain it.

The next area to tackle in furnace cleaning is the combustion chamber. The combustion chamber is where the fuel mixes with air and is ignited. The results generate heat, carbon soot, vapor, carbon dioxide, and other noxious chemicals. The soot caused by combustion can coat the walls of the chamber and begin to cause corrosion. You would want a wire brush to scrape built-up material and a vacuum to pull out all debris.

After replacing the chamber cover, you would move on to checking the flue. The exhaust flue is where the carbon monoxide and other fumes leave the unit and get taken outside via the home's chimney. Any leaks in the flue could present a danger, including during any furnace cleaning. The flue should remain clean because any deposits could corrode the tubing and create leaks.

Finally, you should replace the oil and air filters. Oil filters prevent any sediment or grouped oil particles from clogging the system. It's also important to replace the air filter to keep the furnace system pushing clean air into your home.

During winter, your family is breathing in air that has passed through that filter, so it should not be neglected as part of furnace cleaning. A finishing step that doesn't necessarily involve the furnace itself but is often done with cleaning is vacuuming the heating air vents throughout the house.

It This a Pro Only Job?

There are many maintenance, repair, and especially cleaning projects that you can DIY in your home. Cleaning out a furnace should not be one of them unless you have very good familiarity with the systems and have the right tools. It is probably better to call a professional to get this job done as this is an integral safety system in your house. Any time you tamper with appliances that involve fuel and combustion, you should think twice before attempting it yourself.

How Often Should An Oil Furnace Be Cleaned?

All HVAC professionals agree that your furnace and heating systems should be cleaned every year. The best time to do it is at the end of the winter. This is because that is the time of year you use your furnace most. Proper cleaning and maintenance done on your furnace at this point will make sure you keep things in good shape until the next cold season.

If you want to learn more about how your oil heating system, check out our article, "Does An Oil Furnace Need Electricity?"

How Much Does It Cost To Clean An Oil furnace?

The cost to clean your oil furnace will depend on whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a pro. Like we explained before, it is likely this is a job better suited for a pro. The cost of the parts and labor can be a relatively low $50-300, which provides you with one more reason to not skip out on a contractor for this one. If you were to perform the cleaning yourself, the price could be higher as you'd have to buy the right tools, filters, and possible repair parts on your own.

Can I Clean My Furnace Myself?

While it's possible to do it on your own, a professional will likely also be able to take care of smaller details. Professional HVAC contractors can analyze the combustion chamber variables after cleaning to make sure the system is running optimally. They also have years of experience to detect even the slightest problems or air leaks - which can prove dangerous if not handled properly.

To properly clean your oil furnace, you need both some cleaning tools and some replacement parts. A metal bristle brush would help you break about built-up deposits of soot. A shop vacuum with good strength will help clear any debris and residual particles left in the combustion chamber.

Replacement air and oil filters are needed to complete the maintenance. You would also likely want to have a protective mask/eyewear, gloves, and basic tools like screwdrivers with several tips available.

Do You Have To Clean The Chimney Of An Oil Furnace?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends cleaning your chimney out annually. Most people choose to have this done when they service and clean their furnace unit.

Just like the combustion chamber and possibly the exhaust flue, the chimney let-off of an oil furnace will start to get coated with carbon soot deposits over time that can become a problem. You definitely don't want the chimney to get to a point where it's close to being clogged, as this could cause safety problems.

How Often Should You Change an Oil Furnace Filter?

You should change your oil filters more often than you do routine cleaning. During the seasons when you're relying on the usage of oil heat every day, the filters should be replaced each 1-3 months.

The filter prevents any sediments or soil particles from clogging the feed and causing shutdowns. When the temperatures creep low enough, you should read our article "How Long Can A Furnace Run Continuously?"

Easy to Maintain

For all the benefits an oil furnace system provides, the cleaning and maintenance schedule is very simple. You should clean your oil furnace and the chimney exhaust once a year while changing your oil filters more often during the winter months. The cleaning is relatively affordable and keeps the heating system running efficiently and safely.

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