The return of cooler temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it may become a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a leading source of home fires, contributing to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces cause most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety hazards as they might 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 know about these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and force the motor to work harder. Eventually, the motor might overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and cover up the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace is on. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot buildup and bad ventilation, lowering 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 could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace transfers 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 bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can happen if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces 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 return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is lit.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an accurate combination of natural gas and air to produce 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 leads to unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat in 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 different ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Replace 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 place combustible items close to the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety component recognizes if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch triggers, have your furnace inspected right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is working 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 resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Calverley Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals 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, 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 Calverley Service Experts office