The return of cold temperatures increases your reliance on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it could grow to be a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a major factor of home fires, contributing to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are responsible for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more susceptible to safety concerns as they could be configured differently and settle into disrepair over the years. Still, 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 most common risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Eventually, the motor might overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and cover up the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace runs. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot buildup and bad ventilation, decreasing 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 could be seriously damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed 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
Numerous problems can take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers 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 deadly, so never neglect your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is present.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces need an exact mixture of natural gas and air to generate 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 inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the various ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter once a month and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items close to the furnace: Things such as 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 component detects if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch triggers, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, prioritize 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 pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office