The return of cold temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning correctly, it may become a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a major factor of home fires, contributing to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are accountable for around 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more exposed to safety hazards since they may be designed differently and slide into disrepair through the years. Nevertheless, 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 different ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. At some point, the motor may overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger 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 as the furnace is on. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can block the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot building up and bad ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment may be seriously damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating throughout 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
Various problems can take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction within this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, like 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 lit.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces need an exact mixture of natural gas and air to ensure 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 causes unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. Such fires can quickly spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the various 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 monthly and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t place 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 component recognizes if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch trips, have your furnace inspected as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is performing 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 the case, Stark Services is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll recommend 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 Stark Services office