How Much Does Furnace Cleaning Cost?
The national average furnace cleaning cost is $150. Several factors influence the cost of cleaning a furnace, though it has a typical range of $70 to $300.
- Typical Range: $70 to $300
- National Average: $150
Furnaces hibernate during the warmer months. While they rest, dust often builds up in the unit. Ignoring this buildup can have a negative effect on a furnace’s efficiency and longevity, which is why professionals recommend that a furnace be thoroughly cleaned at least once a year. Keeping up with this maintenance improves safety and can even catch problems early on, before they cause serious damage.
The national average furnace cleaning cost is $150, falling within the typical cost range of $70 to $300. There are many factors that influence the final cost, including the type of furnace, its condition, and its accessibility.
This guide will cover how furnace cleaning costs are determined, whether a homeowner can clean their own furnace without the help of a pro, and how to know when a furnace is in need of a tune-up.
Factors in Calculating Furnace Cleaning Cost
There are many factors that play a role in estimating furnace cleaning cost, including furnace type, condition, and accessibility. Understanding the following influential components can help a homeowner financially prepare for furnace cleaning and maintenance.
There are several different types of furnaces. Because gas is one of the most common, most HVAC contractors have plenty of experience cleaning and maintaining gas furnaces. Electric furnaces are also common, but since they don’t involve combustion, they don’t need to be cleaned as frequently. Oil furnaces have more components than gas or electric models, so they may require a more involved—and costlier—cleaning.
Furnace type alone doesn’t determine the final furnace cleaning cost, however. In fact, all types of furnace have their own unique cleaning cost price ranges. Generally speaking, electric units are the most affordable to have serviced, while gas and oil furnaces tend to cost about the same for units similar in size and condition.
All furnaces begin to break down over time, and it’s impossible to keep a furnace in brand-new condition forever. So how long does a furnace last? The good news is that a well-maintained furnace can last for around 15 to 20 years, but a furnace’s overall state can impact its cleaning and maintenance schedule and, by extension, its upkeep costs for a few reasons.
First, a furnace in good condition has likely had regular cleanings. This means it’s also been inspected on a regular basis and perhaps already undergone a few minor repairs to keep it running as efficiently as possible. Generally speaking, a furnace in good condition will either cost less to clean or not incur additional costs.
On the other hand, a furnace in poor condition is more likely to have skipped several annual cleanings and inspections. Dirt and debris can be difficult to remove after sitting for so long, and there could be several repairs waiting to be spotted. While problems aren’t guaranteed, a furnace in poor condition is likely to incur a higher cleaning fee and potentially additional repair costs.
Air Filter Replacement
While professionally cleaning a furnace takes 1 to 3 hours, changing an air filter takes only 5 minutes. If a furnace is being serviced, a contractor will likely include a quick air filter swap as part of the job scope without tacking on more labor costs.
Changing a filter is also a job that a homeowner can typically handle on their own, but just because it’s a quick job doesn’t mean it’s one that should be overlooked. So how often does a furnace filter need to be changed? In order to keep a furnace working properly, the air filter needs to be replaced every 1 to 3 months.
There are several different types of filters, but most home furnaces use flat and pleated filters. These have a cost range of $10 to $50. If the filters are regularly replaced, homeowners can expect to pay between $40 and $200 per year on new furnace filters.
HVAC contractors often charge by the hour. Hourly labor fees can vary based on location. More populated areas with higher costs of living are more likely to have higher labor fees, while more rural areas with lower costs of living tend to have lower labor fees. Experience can also influence labor fees, with contractors who have been in the business for longer charging more per hour than those who are just getting a feel for the profession.
Most HVAC technicians charge between $75 and $150 per hour on average, although some contractors may charge a simple flat rate with hourly charges coming into play only if repairs are needed.
Most newer homes are built with easily accessible furnaces. This means an HVAC contractor can quickly gain access to a furnace and its inner components, thereby shortening the amount of time it takes to complete a cleaning or repair. This often equates to lower labor charges and a less expensive appointment overall.
In older homes, some furnaces can be difficult to access. A contractor may need to get a little creative with their approach to a cleaning appointment or routine repair. Units in limited-access attics or crawlspaces can leave a contractor crunched in a tight spot while they complete their work. This can increase labor costs.
Fall is a great time to schedule a furnace tune-up. It’s better to find out if a furnace is starting to show serious signs of wear and tear before the first stretch of frozen temperatures. Homeowners are advised to keep in mind that fall is also the busy season for furnace tune-ups, and appointments can come at a premium.
Scheduling a cleaning or tune-up during the off-season for a home’s heating season can potentially save a bit of money, but checking a furnace before it’s needed could still lead to some surprises once the weather changes.
Maintenance plans can solve the issue of expensive fall appointments, because members receive priority appointments without the added fees.
Additional Costs and Considerations
While not all furnace cleaning appointments will involve the scenarios listed below, homeowners may benefit from knowing about the following potential costs and considerations when trying to estimate their furnace cleaning cost.
Air Duct Cleaning
Though not required with every furnace cleaning, air duct cleaning is an additional cost homeowners will want to be aware of. Duct cleaning can help create a cleaner living environment, reduce allergens and irritants, and remove unpleasant smells and odors blowing through a home. So, with so many benefits, what does furnace duct cleaning cost?
It depends on a few factors. For example, a dirtier duct system will likely cost more to clean than one with less debris. Larger systems also typically cost more to clean, especially if there are additional vents.
Overall, cleaning costs range from $269 to $486. While duct cleaning can add to a furnace cleaning cost, homeowners may be happy to learn a duct system can go several years between cleanings.
When cleaning a furnace, an HVAC contractor may spot an area or issue in need of repair. There are few furnace repairs that can be put off, so it’s in a homeowner’s best interest to add the repair to the job scope. The typical range for furnace repair is $131 to $485, depending on the part in question.
For example, a blower motor repair costs between $150 and $450, with a total replacement costing up to $2,000. Repairing a heat exchange costs between $100 and $200, while replacing a gas valve can be as much as $600.
Electric furnace repairs are typically the most affordable, starting as low as $50. Gas, propane, and oil furnaces can incur expensive repairs, costing up to $1,200.
A service plan is an agreement between a homeowner and an HVAC contractor stating that a fee from the homeowner will be exchanged for ongoing HVAC services from the service provider. These plans vary by contractor but typically involve checkups, tune-ups, seasonal HVAC maintenance, emergency services, and priority treatment. Some HVAC companies offer homeowners the choice of different tiered packages to suit their needs and budget.
An annual maintenance service plan costs between $150 and $500. Homeowners will want to keep in mind that many service plans include general repairs, so the annual fee could be a bargain for a furnace starting to show its age.
Some HVAC contractors may offer discounts when a cleaning service is combined with repairs or other HVAC work. Other contractors may offer discounts during slow periods of the year, though these periods vary in different parts of the country. Annual maintenance plans are another way homeowners can take advantage of discounted furnace cleaning costs.
Homeowners can also reach out to their local utility companies to see if any rebates are offered for annual tune-ups. Some municipalities offer rebates of $20 to $50 to encourage residents to seek out annual maintenance. Routine cleanings improve furnace efficiency and can also reduce local energy strains.
Furnace Cleaning Cost by Type of Furnace
One of the main influencing factors when it comes to furnace service costs is the type of furnace being serviced. For example, electric furnaces tend to require less frequent cleanings because there is no combustion, while propane and gas furnaces require regular inspections and flawless plumbing, which can add up to an increase in furnace maintenance costs.
When homeowners are estimating a heater tune-up cost, the following explanations by type can help them come up with an accurate number.
Up to 15 percent of American homes use an electric furnace as their primary source of heat. Electric furnaces are environmentally friendly but can come with higher energy costs.
Electric furnaces operate like gas furnaces except that they produce heat with electric heating elements rather than gas burners. These heating elements are controlled by circuit breakers.
Electric furnaces still need to be cleaned and inspected annually, but they’re less likely to take as long or require as much labor. One way for homeowners to keep the cost of electric furnace cleaning low is to consider an annual maintenance plan that includes regular cleaning along with other maintenance tasks.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly half of all American households rely on natural gas as their main heating fuel. In a gas furnace, burning natural gas generates heat in the unit’s burner, which is then passed through a heat exchanger. As hot air leaves the heat exchanger, it’s pushed with a fan throughout a home’s ductwork, simultaneously making each living space a comfortable temperature.
The average cost of gas furnace cleaning is $80, with a range between $60 and $160. Furnace inspection cost typically includes cleaning and safety checks on the gas line and valve, exhaust system, and heat exchanger.
Oil furnaces aren’t as outdated as some Americans may think. In fact, 5.3 million American households use oil to heat the main living spaces in their homes. Since oil furnaces aren’t as common as gas and electric furnaces, it may take a bit more work for homeowners to find an HVAC contractor who is experienced with oil furnace cleaning. However, finding a qualified technician is always worth the extra work.
The average oil furnace cleaning cost is between $100 and $200. This typically includes an inspection, system tune-up, and filter replacement. A complete cleaning will involve all of the system’s main components.
There are certain services that may cost more, such as chimney cleaning. It costs between $150 and $250 to clean a chimney from an oil furnace. Replacing an oil tank is luckily a rare maintenance step, as it has a price range between $1,000 and $6,200. Cleaning clogged underground oil lines costs between $200 and $1,000.
Do I Need Furnace Cleaning?
Furnace cleaning is part of a home’s required maintenance. Regular cleanings help keep the inside air clean and extend the expected lifespan of a heating unit. While the general rule of thumb is to clean a furnace annually, there are signs a homeowner can look for that may signal a cleaning is needed sooner than expected, including the following.
A home with inconsistent airflow may have a furnace that needs to be cleaned. Before calling an HVAC contractor, there are a few things a homeowner can try on their own. The first is to make sure there are no vents covered or blocked. A vent needs around 18 inches of clearance to work properly. Once it’s been confirmed that all vents have adequate clearance, checking to make sure that the vents are fully opened is the next step.
If all the home’s vents are clear and open, it may be time to replace the furnace filter. This is typically done once every season. But if a clean air filter still doesn’t solve the problem, a professional cleaning is the next step.
When some rooms in a home are cooler than others, despite the thermostat being set to a warm temperature, this can be a sign of a furnace in need of a cleaning. Too much dirt and dust inside a unit can cause it to turn on and off too quickly and struggle to maintain the temperature set on a thermostat.
If walking through a home seems like a roller coaster of temperatures and there is no obvious reason, such as an open window or closed floor vent, calling an HVAC contractor for a furnace cleaning can help a unit better regulate temperature throughout the home.
Water in Ducts
Water buildup in air ducts can promote mold, bacteria, and fungi growth, all which can cause serious health problems for homeowners. Unfortunately, moisture in air ducts isn’t a rare occurrence and can quickly lead to serious consequences if ignored.
Moisture in ducts is usually related to an AC issue. However, leaks in a furnace venting system can lead to moisture buildup as well. Unused air-conditioning ducts in unheated rooms during the heating season can also collect moisture.
Because of the health risks associated with standing water in ducts, homeowners are advised to consult an HVAC professional to determine where the moisture is coming from and whether a furnace cleaning or tune-up can help.
When coffee tables, blinds, and banisters are suddenly covered in a layer of dust, despite being recently cleaned, it’s a sign a furnace is in need of a good cleaning. It’s also likely that the home’s ductwork is in need of some maintenance. At first, a dirty furnace simply pushes debris and dirt through the ducts and into a home, but if ignored for too long, it can lead to serious furnace problems, including total unit failure.
A furnace can emit a wide range of unusual smells. While a burning dust smell is common when homeowners first turn on a furnace at the beginning of the fall or winter season, it should last only a few hours, or a couple days at the most. But if the dusty smell doesn’t go away after the furnace operates on a regular basis for a few days, the homeowner will want to change out the air filter. If the smell still doesn’t go away, they’ll need to turn the furnace off and have it inspected by an HVAC professional.
Higher Energy Bills
Dust and debris inside a furnace unit can cause a home’s energy bills to skyrocket. When an air filter or the entire furnace unit is visibly dirty from dust and debris, an HVAC system can’t work as designed. Heating a home becomes more difficult as airflow is restricted. A dirty furnace needs to work harder to move warm air throughout a home, resulting in longer run times and higher energy bills.
While there is a cost to cleaning a furnace, homeowners may want to think of it as an investment. Not only can routine maintenance prevent having to replace a unit early (a massive savings on its own), it can immediately help a homeowner save on monthly utility bills throughout the year.
A furnace that keeps shutting down is certainly annoying, but it can be dangerous for people, pipes, and appliances when a homeowner can’t keep their house at a comfortable temperature. A dirty furnace can struggle to run on demand; frequent system shutdowns could be a sign that a cleaning is in order.
A dirty furnace filter can obstruct airflow to the unit’s heat exchanger. If the exchanger gets too hot due to a lack of airflow, a safety mechanism kicks in and shuts the furnace off to prevent damage to the unit and reduce the risk of a fire. This problem can usually be solved by simply switching out the filter.
If inner components of the unit such as the blower wheel are dirty, however, a furnace can struggle to operate and eventually shut down as other components are overworked.
A furnace that keeps shutting off despite not reaching the programmed temperature on the thermostat means it’s time to turn off the unit and call for a professional inspection.
Furnace Cleaning: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
When it comes to recurring home maintenance costs, like furnace cleaning, homeowners often wonder if a DIY approach is safe and cost effective. While there are some parts of furnace maintenance that homeowners can handle on their own, a full cleaning and tune-up should be handled only by a professional and, in fact, professional work is often a warranty requirement.
Furnace filters improve indoor air quality, reduce the amount of dust in the air, and help an HVAC system run efficiently. Over time, furnace filters start to fill up with dust and debris, making it harder for the furnace to function.
In general, furnace filters should be changed every 1 to 3 months, or at least once per season. Each make and model of furnace has its own filter requirements and changing procedure, but overall, it’s an easy maintenance task that only takes a few minutes. Changing the filter can certainly be handled by a homeowner.
But when it comes to more in-depth cleaning and maintenance, a professional will need to handle the job. Not only does this ensure the appointment is carried out safely (furnaces are complicated machines with multiple components), it also guarantees that a furnace’s warranty stays intact.
All furnace manufacturers recommend annual maintenance, and most also include a warranty for every furnace they make. However, most warranties require that units be installed and maintained by a certified HVAC professional, which includes cleanings. Damage to a unit caused by a lack of maintenance or errors made by a homeowner during cleaning or DIY repair is generally not covered.
When a warranty is offered by an HVAC contractor upon installation, enrollment in an annual maintenance plan is typically required. With so many requirements to keep crucial furnace warranties intact, it makes more sense to let a professional take on the task of cleaning a unit rather than a homeowner.
How to Save Money on Furnace Cleaning Cost
Furnace cleaning is an annual expense homeowners take on to keep their home’s heating systems working as efficiently as possible. Luckily, there are several things a homeowner can do to save on HVAC service costs without sacrificing quality.
- Change a furnace’s filter on time, every time. Dirty filters increase the amount of dust and debris a furnace collects. This can lead to more frequent cleanings or premature wear and tear on a unit.
- Never skip annual cleanings or tune-ups. Not only do some warranties require annual maintenance services, but these appointments can improve a furnace’s efficiency and extend its longevity. This saves on energy bills today and furnace replacement costs tomorrow. Annual cleanings can also spot repairable issues before they become expensive catastrophes.
- Address issues promptly. A furnace making loud noises, having trouble heating a home, emitting strange odors, or causing a sudden and dramatic increase in energy bills should be inspected by an HVAC contractor as soon as possible. This is the best way to avoid the high cost of domino effect repairs.
- Get cleaning and tune-up quotes from multiple contractors. Ask if discounts are offered through annual maintenance plans that include AC cleaning, furnace cleaning, and preventative maintenance. Getting multiple quotes means homeowners can compare them and find the best one.
- Rely on the experience of a professional. Homeowners who tackle furnace cleanings on their own run the risk of voiding warranties. Should something break down as a result, any repair expenses will need to be handled exclusively by the homeowner.
- Work only with licensed HVAC contractors. Having an unlicensed contractor service a unit can void the warranty. Be sure to ask about a contractor’s licensing before making an appointment.
Questions to Ask About Furnace Cleaning
When choosing a company to carry out a furnace cleaning, finding a qualified furnace inspector is important. To help narrow down their list of candidates, a homeowner can ask the following questions that are applicable to their furnace cleaning requirements.
- How long have you been in business?
- Will you perform the cleaning, or do you use subcontractors?
- Are you a licensed and insured HVAC contractor?
- Is my furnace ready to be cleaned?
- What does your cleaning process look like?
- Can you show me how to correctly replace the filter?
- How many furnace cleanings do you perform a month?
- Have you worked with my specific type of furnace unit before?
- How much does a furnace tune-up cost?
- What’s included in the quote?
- Is cleaning included in a tune-up?
- Do my air ducts need to be cleaned?
- Can you check my duct system with a camera?
- Do you disinfect the ducts after they’ve been cleaned?
- How do you clean up after vacuuming my furnace and ducts?
- What condition is my furnace in?
- How much longer do you think my furnace will last?
- Do I need to prep the space before the cleaning appointment?
- What availability do you have for a tune-up?
- How long will the cleaning process take?
- Do you offer a guarantee on your furnace cleaning?
- If you find a serious problem with my furnace, can you fix it the same day?
- Can I schedule next year’s cleaning today? If not, do you send reminders as the time window gets closer?
- Can I expect lower energy bills after this cleaning?
Regularly cleaning a furnace can ensure a home has a reliable and safe heating system. Luckily, cleaning a furnace is an affordable type of home maintenance compared to other routine tasks. The national furnace cleaning cost average is $150, with a typical range between $70 and $300. For homeowners still unsure about the ins and outs of furnace cleaning, the answers to the following commonly asked questions can help clear up any confusion or concerns.
Q. How often does a furnace need to be cleaned?
Most furnaces should be cleaned once every 1 to 2 years. A professional HVAC company will need to carry out the procedure. However, a furnace more than 10 years old should be cleaned and inspected annually. Homeowners will also want to keep in mind that in order to get the most out of their furnace cleaning, a home’s duct system needs to be cleaned on a regular basis as well (typically every 3 to 5 years).
Q. How long does cleaning a furnace take?
The length of a furnace cleaning appointment depends on the size, system type, and condition of the furnace unit. Every cleaning is unique to the unit. Professionally cleaning a furnace takes between 1 and 3 hours. Changing a furnace air filter is much faster, generally taking 5 minutes or less.
Q. How often do I need to change the furnace filter?
Furnace filters improve air quality and keep energy bills from getting out of control. Changing them on time can help keep a furnace working efficiently. As a general rule of thumb, a furnace filter should be changed at least once every 90 days, or once a season (even in warm weather).
Q. How do I know if my furnace needs cleaning?
A furnace gives off signs when it needs to be cleaned. Some of the most common include inconsistent indoor temperatures, sudden increase in dust, strange furnace smells, and spikes in energy bills. A furnace making abnormally loud noises or frequently shutting down can also signal a need for cleaning.
Q. Can I clean a furnace myself?
A homeowner can change a furnace filter on their own, even with minimal experience. But when it comes to furnace cleaning, this is a task best left to the professionals. In fact, a homeowner can void the unit’s warranty by carrying out a cleaning on their own.
Q. Can I use compressed air to clean my furnace?
Yes, compressed air can be used to clean a furnace, but certain safety precautions should be taken. To start, the furnace will need to be shut off before any cleaning is done. Also, compressed air should be used at the lowest psi (pounds per square inch) that’s still effective. A vacuum is also an ideal cleaning tool, as it removes the debris rather than pushing it around. Compressed air should be saved for spots that a vacuum can’t reach.