The return of cooler temperatures boosts your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t operating correctly, it may develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems like furnaces are a leading factor of home fires, contributing to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are accountable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn 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 might be configured differently and settle 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.
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and cause the motor to work longer. Eventually, the motor may overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and coat the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace starts. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Obstructed Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can clog the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This causes soot building up and improper ventilation, limiting efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment could be severely damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace is exchanged to the air circulating through your home. A heat exchanger clogged 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
Numerous problems occur if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases 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 flash back to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces need an accurate mixture of natural gas and air to produce 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, increasing the rate of corrosion.
Conversely, high gas pressure can create excessive heat within the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to ignite. Such fires can readily 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 each month and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items near the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and any 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 promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, don't forget 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, Sunbeam Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything seems off, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Sunbeam Service Experts office