The return of cooler temperatures boosts your dependence on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning correctly, it could grow to be a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires, contributing to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety problems as they may be designed differently and slide into disrepair over the years. Nevertheless, 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 main risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and force the motor to work harder. At some point, the motor may overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and insulate the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace is on. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can block the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This causes soot building up and bad ventilation, limiting efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment may be severely damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat generated 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 a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems occur if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction inside this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be lethal, so never dismiss your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also flash back to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is lit.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces need an exact combination of natural gas and air to ensure 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 in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. 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 avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter once a month and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out 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.
- 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 right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is operating unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, prioritize furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your annual tune-up? Do you need help resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC experts 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, 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