Cleaning Heat Exchanger Tubes

What You'll Need
Calcium or hard water cleaner
Small vacuum
Power washer
Hose attachment
Pipe brush

A heat exchanger in your furnace or boiler is what heats either air or water that is then used to heat your home. The heat exchanger is connected inside the furnace or boiler with metal tubes that transport the water and air exchange. A home heat exchanger is less likely to fail due to dirt and grime then a heat exchanger in a car or ship. Hard water and water with high calcium levels can cause the tubes to calcify and prevent proper flow of water to heat. The article that follows will show you how to clean heat exchanger tubes for your home furnace or boiler.

Step 1 - Turn off the Power

When working with a boiler or furnace it is paramount that you take safety precautions. Accidentally puncturing a tube or hose can cause steam to strike you. Before cleaning any heat exchanger you should turn the power off and allow the system to cool down. Use your senses to tell when it is cool by listening to the system, touching the wall of the system or reading the heat gauge. You should also wear work gloves as there are sharp pieces of metal you'll be working around.

Step 2 - Accessing the Heat Exchanger

Use the screwdriver to remove the front panels of the furnace or boiler. The heat exchanger is located behind these and is identified by hoses and pipes attached to something resembling a bulky metal panel. The tubes you are concerned with are the metal tubes coming off of the heat exchanger. It is a good plan to write down where the hoses and tubes connect and how the heat exchanger is orientated because you will need to remove it.

Step 3 - Initial Cleaning

Use the small vacuum to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated throughout the life of this heat exchanger. Once the dust is removed you can then wipe down the tubes with soapy water and dry them off with a towel. You can also let them air dry if you prefer.

Step 4 - Remove the Heat Exchanger

Use the screwdriver and wrench to remove hose and tube fittings as well as hardware. Once these are removed you will be to work the heat exchanger free.

Step 5 - Clean the Heat Exchanger

Mix the cleaner with fresh water and dip the pipe brush in the solution. Scour the inside of the heat exchanger to remove any build up. Flush the heat exchanger with clean water and allow to air dry.

Step 6 - Clean the Heat Exchanger Tubes

Plug in the power washer and fill with cleaner and fresh water. Attach the hose to the intake tube and the other end to the bucket. Turn the washer on and squeeze the trigger. The treated water will flow through the tubes and recycle itself. Change out the treated water with fresh water to clean the tubes. Attach the heat exchanger, replace the covers and turn on the power.