The return of low temperatures boosts your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, it could develop into a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a top factor of home fires, leading to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start most of the fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety concerns since they may be configured differently and fall into disrepair through 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 force the motor to work longer. At some point, the motor may overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace starts. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can block the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This leads to soot building up and improper ventilation, limiting 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 remains, your heating equipment can be badly damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace is moved 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 a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems can happen if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be deadly, 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 present.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces require a precise combination of natural gas and air to create 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 inside 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 burn. Such fires can readily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the various ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter consistently: 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: Periodically check the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items near the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety system 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 produces a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell 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 resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC pros 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 information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Stallion Heating Plumbing Air Conditioning office