The return of low temperatures raises your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a major factor of home fires, leading to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces start most of the fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety problems because they might be manufactured 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 various ways. Here are the most common risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and force the motor to work longer. At some point, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and coat the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up as the furnace is on. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This leads to soot building up and bad 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 inside your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment could be seriously damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating throughout 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 take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction in this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be lethal, so never ignore 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 need 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 leads to unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. 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 on a regular basis: 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: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items near the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Install 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 promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell 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 fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Chief/Bauer Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to provide 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 information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Chief/Bauer Service Experts office