The return of cold temperatures boosts your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a leading factor of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more exposed to safety problems since they may be configured differently and fall 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 biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work harder. At some point, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and insulate the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can block the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This causes soot building up and weaker ventilation, lowering efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts within your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment can be severely damaged, and the fire could 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 blocked 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 can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be deadly, 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 lit.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require 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 produces unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat within 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 light on fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter once a month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Periodically check the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items near 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.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety device recognizes if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch triggers, have your furnace inspected right away 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 operating unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Donelson Air Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to provide safe operation. If anything doesn't seem right, we’ll suggest a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Donelson Air Service Experts office