Can Furnaces Catch Fire

The return of cold temperatures increases your reliance on home heating equipment every fall. If your furnace isn’t functioning properly, it could become a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.

As stated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a top cause of home fires, causing almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Space heaters and fireplaces generate the majority of fires affecting heating equipment, but central heaters, including furnaces, are accountable for just about 12% of these blazes. Learn more about the primary causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.

Causes of Furnace Fires

Older furnaces are more vulnerable to safety concerns because they could be manufactured differently and fall into disrepair over the years. Nevertheless, 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 different ways. Here are the main risks: 
  • A clogged filter can impede airflow and force the motor to work more. Sooner or later, the motor can overheat, increasing 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 deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to get too high, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
  • Overly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up when the furnace starts. Without the proper lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.

Obstructed Furnace Flue

Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, reducing oxygen. This leads to soot accumulation and improper ventilation, limiting efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem remains, your heating equipment can be badly damaged, and the fire could spread to areas outside the furnace.

Clogged Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is a sealed combustion chamber where the heat generated 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 a higher risk of flame rollout.

Cracked Heat Exchanger

Various problems can take place if corrosion breaks the heat exchanger. First, it reduces suction in this chamber, leading to less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it produces fumes, including carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be lethal, 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 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 produces unwanted condensation within 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 various ways a furnace can combust, 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 take care of any you find.
  • Don’t store combustible items around the furnace: Things like cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept at least 3 feet away from the furnace and all other heating equipment.
  • Install 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 right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it causes a furnace fire.
  • Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to recognize if your furnace is working 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 fixing a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Broad Ripple Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to ensure safe operation. If anything seems off, 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 Broad Ripple Service Experts office today.

 

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