The return of cold temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, 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 leading cause of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more vulnerable to safety hazards since they may be designed differently and settle into disrepair over 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 various ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and force the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor may overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This leads to soot accumulation and improper ventilation, decreasing efficiency and raising 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 remains, your heating equipment could be severely damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace transfers to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger blocked with soot or corrosion has the same effect 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 lowers suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be deadly, so never dismiss your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is lit.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require an exact mixture of natural gas and air to produce 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 inside the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to combust. Such fires can readily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the various ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter regularly: Check the filter each 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 take care of any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items close to the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Add 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 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 is happening, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office