Can Furnaces Catch Fire
The return of cold temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment each fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, it may become a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a top cause of home fires, causing nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for around 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more vulnerable to safety problems since they may be configured differently and fall into disrepair over the years. Nevertheless, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be aware of these causes of furnace fires.
Overheated MotorA furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor may overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can trigger a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can block the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This causes soot buildup and improper ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire escapes the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment could be badly damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace is moved to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger blocked with soot or corrosion has the same result as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can happen if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it affects suction within this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be fatal, so never neglect 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 causes unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can produce excessive heat in the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to burn. 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:
- Replace the air filter regularly: Check the filter once a month and change it when it seems 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 place combustible items near the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety system 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 causes a furnace fire.
- Schedule yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services TodayIs it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything doesn't seem right, we’ll perform a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office today.