The return of cooler temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t working properly, it could develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a major 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 start most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more vulnerable to safety concerns because they could be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair over the years. Nevertheless, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in various 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 can overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace runs. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This leads to soot buildup and weaker ventilation, limiting efficiency and increasing 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 can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted 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 impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems can take place if corrosion damages 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 fatal, 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.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an exact mixture 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, increasing the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can create excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: 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: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items near the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 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 promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice 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 yearly tune-up? Do you need help fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Air Engineers Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Air Engineers Service Experts office