The return of cooler temperatures boosts your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, it might grow to be a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a leading cause of home fires, contributing to nearly 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces cause the majority of fires concerning heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are liable for around 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more vulnerable to safety problems since they might be manufactured differently and settle into disrepair through the years. That being said, 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 block airflow and cause the motor to work more. Eventually, the motor might overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to increase too much, increasing the chances of an electrical fire.
- Exceedingly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other obstructions can obstruct the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot buildup and improper ventilation, limiting efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment could be badly damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is moved to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger clogged 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 occur if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction in this chamber, triggering less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing CO gas can be fatal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces depend on an accurate combination 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 produces unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, increasing the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can lead to excessive heat in 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 catch fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: Check the filter monthly and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Inspect the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items near the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
- Add a flame rollout switch: This safety component 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.
- Request annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is working unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, don't forget 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 reason, BW/Cook Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC experts can inspect, clean and test the system to provide 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 information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local BW/Cook Service Experts office