The return of low temperatures boosts your dependency on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning correctly, it could develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a top factor of home fires, contributing to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are responsible for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the leading causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more vulnerable to safety concerns because they could be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair through the years. Nevertheless, 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 different ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and force the motor to work more. At some point, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and coat the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace starts. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This causes soot building up and bad ventilation, decreasing efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts within your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment could be badly damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted 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 an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction inside this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be lethal, 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 require an accurate mixture of natural gas and air to ensure 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 causes unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, increasing 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 easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: 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 place combustible items near the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and all 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 trips, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize if your furnace is operating 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 resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to provide safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend 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