The return of low temperatures increases your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t operating properly, it could develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a major cause of home fires, leading to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause most of the fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more vulnerable to safety hazards as they could be designed differently and slide into disrepair through the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be aware of these causes of furnace fires.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate 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 increase too much, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This leads to soot buildup and weaker ventilation, decreasing efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts within your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment can be badly 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 produced by your furnace is moved to the air circulating throughout 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
Various problems can take place if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction in this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be lethal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also flash back to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an exact mixture 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 causes unwanted condensation within 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 burn. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter monthly and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Periodically check 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 all other heating equipment.
- Install 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 right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to provide safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll suggest a repair or a modification, giving you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more details or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office