The return of cold temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t operating properly, it could grow to be a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a major factor of home fires, contributing to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more vulnerable to safety hazards since they could be configured differently and settle into disrepair through the years. That being said, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and cover up the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace is on. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This leads to soot buildup and weaker ventilation, limiting efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment can be severely damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged with soot or corrosion has the same impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems can happen if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be lethal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is lit.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on a precise combination of natural gas and air to produce safe and efficient combustion. Too little pressure is often the result of clogged burner orifices. This problem makes the burner flames more likely to roll out. It also leads to unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can readily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can light on fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: Check the filter monthly and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety component detects if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch trips, have your furnace inspected as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, don't forget furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, giving 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