The return of low temperatures raises your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it could develop into a fire hazard and endanger 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 approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are liable for just about 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 vulnerable to safety concerns as they may be designed differently and settle into disrepair through the years. Nevertheless, 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 different ways. Here are the most common risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work more. At some point, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace starts. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This causes soot building up and weaker ventilation, limiting efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts within your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment could be seriously damaged, and the fire may even 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 moved to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger clogged with soot or corrosion has the same result as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems occur if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in 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 found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an accurate combination of natural gas and air to create 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 causes unwanted condensation inside the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. Such fires can easily 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 each month and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items around the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and any 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 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 tell if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, prioritize 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 the case, Peitz Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll suggest 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 Peitz Service Experts office