The return of low temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t operating properly, it might become a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires, leading to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are accountable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more exposed to safety problems as they might be configured differently and fall into disrepair through the years. Nevertheless, 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 several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Eventually, the motor might overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This causes soot accumulation and improper ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes 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 restricted combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace is moved to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged up 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
Various problems occur if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be deadly, so never dismiss your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Improper 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 causes unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, 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 listed ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter consistently: Check the filter once a month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t place 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.
- Install 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 triggers, have your furnace inspected promptly 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 taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, R & M Climate Control Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, giving you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local R & M Climate Control Service Experts office