The return of cold temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it may grow to be a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a top cause of home fires, contributing to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more vulnerable to safety concerns since they may 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 know about these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and cover up the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This results in soot building up and improper ventilation, decreasing efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem continues, 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 sealed combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace transfers to the air circulating within your home. A heat exchanger clogged with soot or corrosion has the same impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems can take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction inside this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be fatal, 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 present.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on a precise combination of natural gas and air to generate 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, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. 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 prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter monthly and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Periodically check the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items close to the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Install 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 as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize if your furnace is operating 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 fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, Jack Nelson Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more details or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Jack Nelson Service Experts office