The return of cooler temperatures increases your reliance on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t operating properly, it may grow to be 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, contributing to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for just about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more susceptible to safety problems as they might be manufactured differently and fall into disrepair over the years. Nevertheless, 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 different ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause the motor to work more. At some point, the motor may overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace is on. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot buildup and improper ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing 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 remains, your heating equipment may be seriously 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 created by your furnace transfers to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger blocked 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 lowers suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be lethal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is lit.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on 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 leads to unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can quickly 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 prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter once a month and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t place combustible items near 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 device detects 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 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 the case, TML Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals 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 details or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local TML Service Experts office