The return of cold temperatures raises your reliance on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t working properly, it could develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a top factor of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces start most of the fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the leading causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more vulnerable to safety problems as they may be configured differently and settle into disrepair over 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 impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Sooner or later, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and cover up the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace starts. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot buildup and bad ventilation, limiting efficiency and raising 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 persists, your heating equipment can be badly damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed 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 impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction in this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be lethal, so never neglect 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 require a precise mixture of natural gas and air to create 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 leads to unwanted condensation inside 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 readily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can light on fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: Check the filter each month 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 keep combustible items near 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.
- Install 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 trips, have your furnace inspected right away 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, 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, Komfort Air Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll perform 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 Komfort Air Service Experts office