The return of cold temperatures boosts your dependence on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t operating correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a leading source of home fires, causing approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are responsible for just about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more exposed to safety problems as they could be designed differently and slide into disrepair over 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.
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and force the motor to work more. Sooner or later, the motor might overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and coat the motor, forcing it to retain 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.
- Exceedingly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace runs. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot accumulation and improper ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment can be badly damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace transfers to the air circulating within your home. A heat exchanger clogged with soot or corrosion has the same result as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction inside this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be lethal, 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 a precise 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 causes unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, increasing 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 easily 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 avoid furnace fires:
- Replace 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 remove any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items around the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and all 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 trips, have your furnace inspected right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, don't forget 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 the reason, A-PLUS Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, giving you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local A-PLUS Service Experts office