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Does an Oil Furnace Flue Need To Be Cleaned?

When it comes to maintenance, many homeowners think about the performance of their oil  furnaces – but may overlook the condition of the flue that carries away the byproducts of combustion. However, the state of your furnace flue is something that impacts the safety, efficiency, and longevity of the system as a whole. 

Just like wood-burning appliances, oil and gas heating systems (like your furnace and hot water heater) are combustion systems. In combustion systems, your fuel reacts with an oxidizing agent to release energy in the form of heat and light. In a home heating system, this translates to warmth on cold days.

…but it also releases byproducts that you don’t want in your home. It’s the job of the flue to help vent these gases and other byproducts safely outside of your home. Over time, however, these byproducts can leave deposits and residue inside the flue, which can be damaging and problematic.

So does your oil furnace flue need to be cleaned like wood-burning appliances’ flues do? They certainly do. And ignoring the maintenance of your oil furnace flue can lead to various problems, such as reduced efficiency, increased fuel consumption, increased safety risks, and costly repairs.

Why Does My Flue Need Cleaning?

  • a thin furnace flue sticking out the top of a roofEfficiency: If you have an interest in maintaining the efficiency of your heating system – and of course you do! – then you’ll want to have your furnace flue cleaned annually. When soot, debris, and residue accumulate inside the flue, it can restrict the flow of combustion gases. This can force the furnace to work harder to expel the exhaust gases, leading to diminished energy efficiency. The end result? You may find yourself using more oil to achieve the same level of warmth, leading to higher heating bills.
  • Safety: Since you’re dealing with potential hazards, safety needs to be a top consideration when it comes to home heating systems. A neglected oil furnace flue can pose significant safety risks. Damaged or obstructed flues can increase risk of an uncontained fire or backdrafting. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced during combustion. An improperly functioning flue can lead to carbon monoxide backdrafting into your home rather than being vented outdoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious health hazard, and its symptoms can range from mild to severe, or even fatal.
  • Extending the Life of Your Furnace: Staying on top of regular flue maintenance can help extend the lifespan of your appliance. While build up of creosote isn’t a concern as it would be in a wood system, residue and acidic condensates inside the flue can lead to corrosion and damage over time. Keeping the flue clean reduces these risks and can extend the life of your furnace, as well as potentially save you from costly repairs during its life.
  • Compliance With Regulations: Some local building codes and regulations require periodic chimney inspections and cleaning, and ignoring them can lead to fines or penalties. In addition, failing to invest in maintenance might void any warranties.

How Often Should My Flue Be Cleaned?

As with wood burning fireplaces and other heating appliances, it’s recommended that the flue of an oil burning appliance should be cleaned every year. This will help minimize risks of leaks, corrosion, and premature wear and tear, and help keep your system running and peak efficiency. Your system works hard to keep you cozy, so make sure you give it the maintenance it requires to do its job from top to bottom.

Who Can Clean My Furnace Flue?

a metal flue with lots of white smoke coming outMany homeowners make the mistake of assuming their furnace company includes flue maintenance as part of their regular service. But don’t assume that you’re covered just because you’re diligent about professional furnace maintenance!

While some companies might offer flue cleaning as an optional service, it’s not a given that it will be included in routine furnace maintenance visits. It’s very important to communicate with your furnace service provider, understand what’s included, and confirm whether flue cleaning is part of their service package.

If it isn’t, hiring a professional chimney sweep technician to ensure your flue is cleaned and inspected regularly is the path to ensuring your flue gets the attention it needs.

Call Us Today

At Top Hat & Tails, we’ve spent over twenty years in the chimney care field. Throughout those years we’ve proven ourselves to be reliable experts who are motivated by the safety, comfort, and overall satisfaction of our clients. And because we’re certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), you can rest assured that our skills and industry knowledge are up to par.

If you’re not sure when the last time your oil furnace flue has been looked at, contact us to set up an inspection and cleaning today. We’ll be happy to give you the assurance of having a clean, clear ventilation pathway from your home heating appliance and out of your living space.

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