The return of cooler temperatures raises your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t operating properly, it could develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a major cause of home fires, leading to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more exposed to safety hazards because they could be manufactured differently and slide into disrepair over 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.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can restrict airflow and force the motor to work more. Sooner or later, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can gather around and cover up the motor, forcing it to retain heat, which can cause a fire.
- Exposed or corroded wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other obstructions can block the furnace flue, lowering oxygen. This leads to soot accumulation and bad 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 continues, your heating equipment may be seriously damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a closed combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace is moved to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger clogged with soot or corrosion has the same impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and an increased risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Several problems can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction within this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in 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.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces require a precise mixture 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.
Conversely, high gas pressure can lead to 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 light on fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter on a regular basis: Check the filter each month and change it when it seems dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items near the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Install 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 right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in 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, prioritize 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, Eveready 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 suggest 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 Eveready Service Experts office