The return of low temperatures boosts your reliance on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t operating properly, it may develop into a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading source of home fires, causing almost 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 concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Learn the leading causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety hazards because they might be designed differently and settle into disrepair over the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should know about these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the most common risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Sooner or later, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and cover up the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace starts. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This causes soot accumulation and weaker ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem continues, your heating equipment may be seriously damaged, and the fire can 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 exchanged to the air circulating within your home. A heat exchanger clogged up with soot or corrosion has the same impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems occur if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction in this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be lethal, so never dismiss your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces need a precise mixture of natural gas and air to produce 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 within the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter consistently: Check the filter monthly and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items near the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 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 trips, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is working 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 taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Wesley Wood Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll suggest 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 Wesley Wood Service Experts office