When Should I Clean and Service My Furnace?

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated July 26, 2022
professional cleaning a furnace
Photo: Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

Service your furnace in the fall. An autumn furnace inspection costs between $50 and $100 and will prolong the life of your HVAC system and save on your energy bills

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How Often Should the Furnace be Cleaned?

Before the cold weather hits, experts recommend having a professional service your furnace to keep it in good running order and prevent it from breaking down when you need it most.

An annual furnace inspection and service will prolong the system's lifespan, save energy and decrease health risks. Manufacturers recommend each side of the system get inspected and serviced once per year, in spring for air conditioning and fall for heating and furnaces. 

Like changing the oil in your car, this annual servicing is a necessary part of HVAC care. You'll extend the life of the system and help head off major breakdowns. Failure to perform needed maintenance is one of the most common causes of HVAC breakdowns.

Because fall is the busy time for most HVAC companies, it's a good idea to call to schedule furnace service in late summer. 

Why Should I Get My Furnace Cleaned?

Some experts say up to 75 percent of no-heat calls in the winter are related to a lack of maintenance. Left unserviced, a furnace can stop working suddenly, leaving your family in the cold.

It can also be a health hazard. Technicians say a furnace checkup can reveal carbon monoxide leaks, which are hard to detect because the gas is colorless and odorless. Carbon monoxide can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death. An estimated 500 people die each year, and 15,000 people are taken to emergency rooms, due to carbon monoxide exposure. In particularly unsafe situations, your furnace could be red-tagged, meaning it can't be activated until repaired.

If you’re unsure whether your furnace is up to par, have a professional inspect it.

“We recently worked on a house that had a relatively new HVAC system, but it was leaking carbon monoxide,” says Bob Tschudi, a Raleigh, NC-based general contractor. “Not only did we end up replacing the entire unit, we also replaced the carbon monoxide sensors inside the house.”

Not maintaining your furnace — whether it's gas or electric — can cause it to run less efficiently, making it work even harder, therefore increasing your monthly energy bills.

How Much Does it Cost to Clean a Furnace?

If you have a company out to do an inspection only, you may have to pay a small trip charge or service fee. Ask if that amount will come off your bill if you have work done. On average, furnace cleaning costs $60 to $85. Technicians will make sure everything is safe, as efficient as possible, and running at peak performance.

“Before the HVAC pro comes to your house, turn on the fan, heat, or air conditioning and check every register to see if air is coming out,” recommends Tschudi. “That way, the pro can diagnose any problems on the same service call, such as disconnected or damaged ducts.”

What Does Annual Furnace Cleaning Involve?

Maintenance technicians will follow a checklist to cover all the important elements. Here are some things you can expect from a typical furnace inspection and cleaning.

  • Checking the thermostat settings to make sure the system is properly running

  • Inspecting electrical connections and testing voltage on the system components to prevent any component failure in the future

  • Lubricating moving parts

  • Inspecting the condensate drain for obstruction

What Should I Look for When Hiring an HVAC Technician?

HVAC systems are one of the most complex systems that run through your home, so make sure you hire the right professional. Most states or cities license HVAC contractors. Check with your local licensing agency to see if the company is licensed, bonded, and insured, and ask for references from the company. You can also search for licenses through Angi's License Check.

What Other Benefits Come With Furnace Servicing?

After an HVAC professional services the furnace, there are a few steps homeowners can take to keep it running smoothly. The most important thing you can do is change the air filter regularly, at least every three months. A clogged air filter will restrict air flow, which can allow pollen, dust, and other contaminants to affect your indoor air quality.

There's one other vital advantage to yearly servicing. It's easy to stop thinking about service on a new furnace, but most manufacturer warranties require you to regularly maintain your system. If you have a warranty claim, the manufacturer has the right to ask for service records to prove you've been keeping up with required maintenance. They can deny a claim if you haven't serviced your furnace regularly.

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