The return of low temperatures boosts your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it may grow to be a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a top cause of home fires, leading to almost 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, including furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety problems because they may be designed differently and fall into disrepair through 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 cause the motor to work longer. At some point, the motor may overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, 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 may eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This causes soot accumulation 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 in your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment could be severely damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is moved to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged with soot or corrosion has the same effect as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems can take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction in this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be lethal, 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 depend on an exact combination 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 leads to unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can produce 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 combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace 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: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out 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 least 3 feet away from the furnace and all 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 triggers, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Request yearly 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 yearly tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, A1 Chesney Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything doesn't seem right, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local A1 Chesney Service Experts office