The return of low temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment each 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 equipment is a leading factor 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 the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are accountable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety problems since they might 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 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 restrict airflow and force the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor can overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and cover up the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace is on. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This leads to soot building up and weaker ventilation, decreasing efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment can be severely damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace is moved 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 a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems occur if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction inside this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be deadly, so never neglect your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is present.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces require a precise mixture of natural gas and air to generate safe and efficient combustion. Too little pressure is often because 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 produce excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to combust. Such fires can quickly spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter consistently: Check the filter monthly and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items close to the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and any 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 trips, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is operating unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, prioritize furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Parker Pearce Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll perform 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 Parker Pearce Service Experts office