The return of cold temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning correctly, it might develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a top source of home fires, leading to approximately 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, like furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety concerns since they might be manufactured differently and fall into disrepair over the years. That being said, 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 block airflow and force the motor to work harder. Eventually, the motor can overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace starts. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This causes soot buildup and improper ventilation, decreasing efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment can be seriously 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 produced by your furnace is moved to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger blocked with soot or corrosion has the same result as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems occur if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction within this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be fatal, 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.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces need a precise mixture 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 in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to combust. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter each month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items around the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Install 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 right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize 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 taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Neal Harris Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to provide safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more details or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Neal Harris Service Experts office