The return of cold temperatures raises your reliance on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t working correctly, it might develop into a fire hazard and jeopardize your family’s safety.
As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a major cause of home fires, causing approximately 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are responsible for just about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the most likely causes of furnace fires and how to prevent them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more susceptible to safety concerns as they may be designed differently and settle into disrepair over the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
An Overheated Motor
A furnace motor can overheat in several ways. Here are the main risks:
- A clogged filter can block airflow and force the motor to work longer. Sooner or later, the motor might overheat, elevating the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or damaged wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or worn motor bearings can heat up whenever the furnace runs. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings could eventually catch fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard debris, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This results in soot accumulation and bad ventilation, lowering efficiency and raising the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire reaches past the heat exchanger and burns the parts in your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment may be seriously damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Obstructed Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat generated by your furnace transfers to the air circulating throughout your home. A heat exchanger clogged up with soot or corrosion has the same impact as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a bigger risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems occur if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction within 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 ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also flash back to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Inadequate Gas Pressure
Furnaces require a precise combination of natural gas and air to generate safe and efficient combustion. Too little pressure is often the result of clogged burner orifices. This problem makes the burner flames more likely to roll out. It also produces unwanted condensation within 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 burn. Such fires can readily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the various ways a furnace can catch fire, here are the steps you can take to avoid furnace fires:
- Change the air filter regularly: Check the filter monthly and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Check the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and remove any you find.
- Don’t store combustible items around the furnace: Things such as cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Install a flame rollout switch: This safety system recognizes if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch triggers, have your furnace inspected promptly to diagnose and repair the problem before it results in a furnace fire.
- Request yearly furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is performing unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the reason, Winnipeg Supply Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC professionals 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 info or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Winnipeg Supply Service Experts office