The return of low temperatures raises your dependence on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working properly, it might grow to be a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading source of home fires, contributing to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces generate most of the fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more exposed to safety concerns because they could be configured differently and slide into disrepair through the years. Nevertheless, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should know about these causes of furnace fires.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in different ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and cause the motor to work longer. At some point, the motor may overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and coat the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace starts. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This causes soot buildup and improper ventilation, lowering 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 continues, your heating equipment could be severely damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace transfers to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged up with soot or corrosion has the same result as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction in this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, such as 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 present.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require an accurate 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 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 combust. Such fires can quickly 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 avoid furnace fires:
- Replace 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: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around the furnace: Things such as 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 device 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 results in a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell 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 yearly tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Golden Seal Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll suggest 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 Golden Seal Service Experts office