The return of cold temperatures increases your dependence on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it might develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a major source of home fires, leading to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are responsible for around 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to minimize them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more vulnerable to safety hazards because they might be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair through 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.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and cause the motor to work harder. Eventually, the motor can overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and cover up the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace is on. Without the appropriate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This causes soot building up and bad ventilation, lowering efficiency and raising 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 can be severely damaged, and the fire may even 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 within 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
Numerous problems can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction within this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it releases fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in 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 lit.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an accurate combination of natural gas and air to generate 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 produces unwanted condensation in the heat exchanger, increasing 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 combust. Such fires can readily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the listed ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter regularly: Check the filter once a 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 place combustible items around the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at a minimum 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 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, 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 the case, Norrell Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to provide safe operation. If anything doesn't seem right, we’ll suggest a repair or a modification, providing you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Norrell Service Experts office