The return of cold temperatures boosts your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it could develop into a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a leading source of home fires, causing almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause most of the fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more vulnerable to safety problems since they might be designed differently and settle into disrepair through the years. That being said, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in different ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Sooner or later, the motor can overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and insulate the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace is on. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This causes soot buildup and weaker ventilation, decreasing efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment can be seriously 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 produced 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 higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems can happen if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction in this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be fatal, so never neglect 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 depend on an exact combination 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 within the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to 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 listed ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter consistently: Check the filter monthly 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 take care of any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and any 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 produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is operating 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 taking care of 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 seems off, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office