The return of low temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, it may become a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a leading cause of home fires, causing nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety concerns because they may be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair through the years. That being said, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and cause the motor to work harder. Sooner or later, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and coat the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can block the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This causes soot buildup and improper ventilation, limiting 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 can 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 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
Numerous problems occur if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction inside this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be fatal, so never neglect 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 a precise 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 leads to unwanted condensation inside the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to 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 prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter once a month and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items close to the furnace: Things like 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 device 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.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice 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 yearly tune-up? Do you need help fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, Pardee Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure 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 Pardee Service Experts office