The return of cooler temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it could become a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a major factor of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate most of the fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety hazards because they could be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair over 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 various ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and force the motor to work longer. Eventually, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and cover up the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace runs. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This causes soot buildup and bad ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment can be severely damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger blocked 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 occur if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction inside this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be fatal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is present.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an accurate combination of natural gas and air to create 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 inside the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can create excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can quickly 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 prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter once a month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items close to the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety system 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 produces a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is working unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, don't forget 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, Finch Air Conditioning & Heating is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything doesn't seem right, 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 Finch Air Conditioning & Heating office