The return of cooler temperatures boosts your reliance on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t working properly, it might develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires, causing almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces cause most of the fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for around 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more exposed to safety concerns because 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 know about these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and force the motor to work harder. Sooner or later, the motor may overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace starts. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot building up and weaker ventilation, lowering efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment could be severely damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger blocked 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
Several 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 emits fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in 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 found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require a precise mixture of natural gas and air to ensure 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, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can create excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. Such fires can quickly spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can light on fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter regularly: Check the filter once a month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items near 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.
- Put in 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 as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell 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 annual tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Comfort Masters Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything doesn't seem right, 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 Comfort Masters Service Experts office