The return of cooler temperatures increases your dependency on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t working properly, it might grow to be a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a top cause of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are responsible for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the leading causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more exposed to safety hazards since they could be configured differently and fall into disrepair through 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 various ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work harder. Eventually, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace starts. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This leads to 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 inside your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment may be seriously damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace is moved to the air circulating within your home. A heat exchanger blocked with soot or corrosion has the same effect as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can happen if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction in this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, such as 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 found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an exact combination of natural gas and air to ensure 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 produces unwanted condensation inside the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can create excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter each month and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Add a flame rollout switch: This safety system 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 results in a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize 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 annual tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, Barlow Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals 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, 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 Barlow Service Experts office