According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is the leading cause of fire in the home. A primary factor in furnace-related fires is neglect – or lack of furnace maintenance and cleaning. Other factors include outdated heating equipment, proximity to foreign objects, and using stationary or portable heaters.
Nearly all furnace-related accidents are preventable. Fire and poison prevention requires a proactive approach in which you anticipate potential risks and take measures to ensure your family’s safety.
Most fire prevention tactics are low-cost and simple to do. Below, we look at six furnace safety tips to keep your family out of harm this winter.
What Are the Leading Causes of Furnace Accidents?
Furnace accident prevention starts by understanding the source of the accident. Some of the most common causes of furnace-related accidents include the following:
- Poor ventilation
- Dust or dirt buildup
- Carbon monoxide leaks
- Faulty wiring
- High gas pressure
- Poor lubrication
Remember that all furnaces are subject to fires or gas leaks, including electric and gas furnaces.
1. Schedule Annual Furnace Maintenance
Perhaps the best way to prevent a furnace fire is to schedule annual furnace maintenance. A Virginia-certified HVAC technician can inspect your furnace, identify issues with your system, and make the necessary adjustments or upgrades.
Preventative furnace maintenance involves inspecting and replacing parts that are vulnerable to fatal accidents, including
- Furnace blowers
- Pilot light assembly
- Combustion chamber
- Hot surface ignitors
- Moving parts requiring lubrication
- Air ducts
The best time to schedule furnace maintenance is in the early fall season before you turn the furnace on for the first time. A technician can inspect all furnace parts and clean the system. They can also turn the furnace on and test it to ensure everything is running as it should.
2. Remove All Objects Near the Furnace
Home designers typically install furnaces in isolated areas – typically a designated close space that allows just enough room for the furnace and nothing else. The furnace is in a central part of the house, allowing it to distribute warm air equally in every room. So, the purpose of the location is to separate the furnace from the rest of the house.
However, many homeowners often use the furnace room or closet storage area. It is common to find cleaning supplies and other items shoved in open areas against the furnace. At a minimum, all items should be at least 30 inches from the furnace. Furnaces need proper airflow to work properly. Restricting the airflow can be dangerous, and it can also undermine the efficiency of the furnace.
3. Check the Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is almost impossible to detect using the senses. For this reason, it is highly dangerous and presents risks to people in your family. Nearly every gas-burning appliance produces a tiny level of carbon monoxide, which is not dangerous. Acceptable levels of CO production are below 100 ppm. In most cases, your furnace produces less than acceptable levels.
If the levels get too high, your carbon monoxide detector will sense too much CO and sound an alarm. Without a detector, you cannot know if the furnace is producing too much CO. So, it is important to check the carbon monoxide detector.
How often should you test it? Most experts agree that you should run a CO detector test monthly. Doing so ensures that your detector is working as it should. Check your manufacturer owner manual to find out how to test your CO detector brand and model.
4. Open All HVAC Vents in the House
Homeowners often close vents and doors in their houses to redirect the warm air to target areas. However, doing so does not accomplish this goal. There is a primary reason for this.
Houses operate in a vacuum, with controlled filtration that keeps the air clean and clear. Nothing is moving the air internally. A blower circulates the air throughout your home. The circulating air redistributes heat by dumping it into condenser coils or picking it up from the furnace. Closing the doors and vents in your house prevents proper circulation. It also creates potential risks such as:
- High air pressure within the HVAC system
- Increased heat exchange
- Increased dust and dirt buildup in the furnace and air ducts
All of these issues are potentially hazardous due to inadequate air circulation. So, your best strategy is to open up all the doors and vents in your house to allow consistent, smooth airflow.
5. Keep Flammables from the Furnace
Clear away any items that may catch fire from heat. Some families use their furnace room for storage or laundry. If your furnace room has more than one purpose, make sure you keep this room as organized as possible. Any item left near the furnace becomes a hazard. Avoid hanging clothes from furnace equipment if you use your furnace room as a laundry room.
Also, keep cleaning solutions in airtight containers, including kitty litter. Ammonia fumes may corrode your furnace’s heat exchanger. Any flammable material stored near the low flash point area poses a high risk. Here are some materials to keep away from this area:
- Paint or paint thinners
- Wood scraps
- Old rags
6. Be Aware of the Signs of a Dangerous Furnace
Following the safety tips above, like regular cleaning and changing your air filter, you should keep your furnace in great working condition. But you’ll want to watch for a few warning signs that your furnace isn’t working properly.
You might need to hire a professional if you notice any of the following:
- Hot or burning smell
- The home doesn’t heat when the furnace is running
- The heater turns on and off too often
- The fan sounds like it’s running all the time
- Your thermostat isn’t functioning properly
- The pilot light is burning yellow, or it won’t stay lit
- You smell gas
If you smell gas, shut the furnace off, open the windows to vent your home, and call a professional as quickly as possible. You may also want to take your family out of the house for a few hours until you check the furnace.
Schedule a Furnace Inspection From Cardinal
Keep your family safe and warm this winter. Winterize your heating system by scheduling your home’s furnace inspection and maintenance. Cardinal Plumbing Heating and Air can help you with our pre-winter furnace checklist. Contact us today for an in-home assessment.
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