The return of cold temperatures boosts your dependency on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t operating correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a top factor of home fires, causing nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are accountable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn the primary causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety concerns because they could be designed differently and fall into disrepair through the years. Nevertheless, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should know about these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in different ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work more. Sooner or later, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and cover up the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace is on. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings can eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot building up and bad ventilation, limiting efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment may be badly damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace is moved to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged up with soot or corrosion has the same effect as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems occur if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction inside this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be deadly, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require an accurate mixture of natural gas and air to produce safe and efficient combustion. Too little pressure is often because of clogged burner orifices. This problem makes the burner flames more likely to roll out. It also produces unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter consistently: Check the filter once a month and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Periodically check the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items close to the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Add a flame rollout switch: This safety device recognizes if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch trips, have your furnace inspected right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is working unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your annual tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll suggest a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office