Cleaning a Dirty Flame Sensor

Residents in Charlotte know how cold winter nights can get. We rely heavily on our HVAC systems to keep us warm. The last thing you need is to wake up in the morning to a cold house. One common issue that causes problems with furnaces is a dirty flame sensor. 

You may notice that suddenly your furnace isn’t working right and is rapidly cycling on and off. This can be an anxiety-inducing event. The good news is that cleaning a dirty flame sensor is a simple fix that can be done quickly and isn’t nearly as expensive as other furnace repair issues. 

Read on to learn more about furnace flame sensors and the problems a dirty flame sensor can cause. 

What Is a Furnace Flame Sensor?

A furnace flame sensor is an important part of your furnace. It’s a small metallic rod that is located on the burner assembly and sits just in front of the pilot flame. When the furnace kicks on, the gas valve opens, releasing gas into the combustion chamber where the pilot light or ignitor lights the burners. 

The job of the sensor is to make sure that there’s fire present when the gas is open. This is an important job because if there is no fire present, the furnace could fill your home with dangerous gas. If the sensor doesn’t detect fire, it automatically shuts the whole furnace down. 

Most furnaces will try to cycle again, but some have advanced safety features that only allow three shutdowns before locking the system down. The flame sensor is an important safety feature, but just like other parts, it is susceptible to wear and tear, and if it is not working, neither will your furnace. 

In addition, the constant cycling on and off can result in extra wear and tear on your furnace overall.

What Happens When Your Flame Sensor Is Dirty?

When your furnace is cycling on and off and won’t ignite, many times it is not due to an underlying problem with your furnace, but rather a dirty flame sensor. If the sensor is dirty, it will not be able to accurately detect the presence of fire, meaning it won’t allow your furnace to turn on. 

This can lead to on and off cycling, or the whole system shutting down. The sensor spends a lot of time in the flame so it can collect carbon deposits, dust, soot, and other particles which can eventually burn onto the sensor. In modern furnaces, the sensor is very sensitive because it has to detect a flame in a matter of seconds. 

This means that even small deposits of debris can prevent the sensor from working properly. The good news is that a dirty flame sensor is usually a relatively easy thing for a trusted technician to fix. Dirty flame sensors are a much easier fix than underlying mechanical issues or dealing with faulty parts.

Signs of a Dirty Sensor

As mentioned above, the most common sign of a dirty sensor is your HVAC system cycling on and off. If it seems like it is trying to start but never seems to get going, that’s a strong indicator that the sensor is dirty. 

Another way to diagnose the problem is to actually visually inspect the sensor. If you can see soot or other debris on the sensor, you’ve most likely identified the issue. 

What to Do If You Have a Dirty Flame Sensor

If you suspect you have a dirty flame sensor, the best thing you can do is call a trusted technician in Charlotte to come to service your HVAC system. Cleaning the sensor is a multi-step process that requires careful skill. 

The sensor must be removed, cleaned, put back into place, and tested. If any one of these steps isn’t completed correctly, you’ll continue to experience problems with your system. In addition, the sensor is very sensitive, so even cleaning it the wrong way can have long-term effects once it goes back into your system.

It’s also important to remember that most flame sensors last about five years. A bad sensor is also another common cause of furnace malfunctions, so sometimes cleaning the sensor won’t be enough to get your system to function properly. 

A trained HVAC technician will be able to tell you if cleaning the sensor will be enough, or if it is time to replace it.

Call Air Care Heating and Cooling for Help with Your Flame Sensors

Air Care Heating and Cooling is your trusted technician for HVAC issues in the Charlotte area. We have years of experience and have worked on every type of HVAC system. Our mission is to ensure all of our clients and neighbors have high-functioning HVAC systems that keep them safe and comfortable year-round. 

We’ve prioritized customer satisfaction since day one, and we’re standing by ready to serve you. We can quickly identify issues with your flame sensor, and clean or replace it to get your system back to normal in no time. If you suspect you have a dirty flame sensor, call Air Care Heating and Cooling today.