The return of cooler temperatures boosts your dependency on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working properly, it might become a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a leading source of home fires, leading to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more vulnerable to safety concerns since they could be manufactured differently and fall into disrepair over the years. Still, 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 restrict airflow and force the motor to work longer. Sooner or later, the motor may overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and cover up the motor, forcing it to hold 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 whenever the furnace starts. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This causes soot buildup and improper ventilation, limiting 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 continues, your heating equipment can be badly 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 created by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger clogged 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 breaks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction inside this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be lethal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is present.
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 produces unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to combust. Such fires can readily 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:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter each month and change it when it looks 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 close to the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 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 trips, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize if your furnace is working 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 fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Falso Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to provide safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Falso Service Experts office