The return of cold temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a major factor of home fires, causing almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Learn the primary causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more susceptible to safety hazards as they may be configured differently and settle into disrepair through the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be aware of these causes of furnace fires.
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 more. Sooner or later, the motor might overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up as the furnace is on. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings can eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This leads to soot buildup and bad ventilation, decreasing efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts within your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment may be severely damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace is moved to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged 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
Several problems can happen if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction in this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be deadly, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also flash back to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require a precise 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 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 different ways a furnace can combust, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: Check the filter once a month 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 remove any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around 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.
- Put in 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 triggers, have your furnace inspected right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly 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 yearly tune-up? Do you need help fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Knochelmann Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, giving you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more details or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Knochelmann Service Experts office