The return of low temperatures boosts your reliance on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it might grow to be a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a top source of home fires, leading to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are accountable for around 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety hazards since they may be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair over the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should know about these causes of furnace fires.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause the motor to work harder. At some point, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace starts. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot building up and improper ventilation, decreasing 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 persists, your heating equipment may be seriously damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is moved to the air circulating within your home. A heat exchanger clogged up 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 cracks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction inside this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be deadly, so never ignore 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 require an exact mixture 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.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can produce 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 different ways a furnace can light on fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter consistently: Check the filter each month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Periodically check the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around the furnace: Things including 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 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 as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell 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 taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, All American Air Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend 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 All American Air Service Experts office