The return of cold temperatures increases your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it could develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a top factor of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces start most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more susceptible to safety concerns because they could be designed differently and settle into disrepair over the years. That being said, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be aware of these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause the motor to work harder. Eventually, the motor can overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, restricting 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 may be badly 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 generated by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged up with soot or corrosion has the same effect as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can happen if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction in this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like 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 present.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on a precise 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 causes unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can quickly 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 prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: Check the filter monthly and change it when it appears 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 such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Add 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 trips, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is working unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember 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, Peachtree Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, 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 Peachtree Service Experts office