The return of low temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t operating correctly, it may grow to be a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a major factor of home fires, contributing to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety problems because they may be configured differently and slide into disrepair through the years. That being said, 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 biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and force the motor to work harder. Sooner or later, the motor may overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or corroded 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 when the furnace starts. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot buildup and improper ventilation, limiting efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment may be badly damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed 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 up with soot or corrosion has the same effect as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems can take place if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction inside this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling 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 found.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an exact combination of natural gas and air to ensure 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 produces unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to combust. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter regularly: Check the filter each month and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Periodically check the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items around the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety component 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 causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is working unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, don't forget furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your annual tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, giving you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office