The return of low temperatures increases your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it might develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a major cause of home fires, leading to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Old furnaces are more vulnerable to safety problems as they might be configured differently and settle into disrepair over the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Sooner or later, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to hold heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up as the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot building up and improper ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing 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 remains, 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 restricted combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace is moved to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger blocked with soot or corrosion has the same result as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Various problems can take place if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction in this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be fatal, 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.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on 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 leads to unwanted condensation inside 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 burn. Such fires can quickly spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the various ways a furnace can light on fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter consistently: Check the filter each month and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items close to the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and any 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 trips, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice 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 fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever is happening, Rob's Albertan 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 Rob's Albertan Service Experts office