The return of low temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t operating correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a major source of home fires, causing approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more susceptible to safety hazards as 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 be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the most common risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work harder. Eventually, the motor may overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace is on. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This leads to soot accumulation and weaker ventilation, limiting 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 continues, 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 transfers to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger blocked 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 happen if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in 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 an exact mixture 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 causes unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can create excessive heat within 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 catch fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter consistently: 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: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items near the furnace: Things such as 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 system 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 causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is operating unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember 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, Freschi Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, 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 Freschi Service Experts office