Can Furnaces Catch Fire
The return of cooler temperatures increases your dependence on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, it might develop into a fire hazard and threaten your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires, contributing to approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage annually. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, like furnaces, are responsible for about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Older furnaces are more vulnerable to safety hazards because they might be designed differently and slide into disrepair over 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.
Overheating MotorA furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the biggest risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and force the motor to work harder. Sooner or later, the motor may overheat, increasing the risk of fire.
- Dirt can collect 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 likelihood of an electrical fire.
- Excessively tight or worn motor bearings can heat up when the furnace runs. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings may eventually catch fire.
Blocked Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can clog the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This causes soot building up and weaker ventilation, limiting 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 seriously damaged, and the fire can spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat created by your furnace is moved to the air circulating through 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 occur if corrosion damages the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction inside this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, like carbon monoxide, into your home. Breathing in CO gas can be fatal, so never neglect your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is present.
Inadequate 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 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 burn. Such fires can quickly 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 regularly: Check the filter once a month and change it when it appears dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and clear out any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items close to 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 device detects if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch triggers, have your furnace inspected as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to tell if your furnace is operating unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, prioritize furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services TodayIs it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help taking care of a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Orangutan Home Services 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, giving you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more information or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Orangutan Home Services office today.