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Common Furnace Safety Problems and How to Fix Them

by VitalStorm Content on January 16, 2020

Your heating system is at the heart of keeping a healthy and cozy home during these long winter months. Unfortunately, your furnace can also pose some serious fire hazards during its busiest working season. Is your furnace functioning at its safest? Well, the team at Blue Flame is here to help you find out – here are some common furnace safety problems and how to fix them!

Common Furnace Safety Problems

Among the most hazardous heating systems are gas-powered furnaces. As a popular system for efficiency, gas-powered heating also poses the greatest furnace safety problems. Here are a few to look out for:

1. Problem: Malfunctioning Parts & Loss of Efficiency

Never underestimate the dangers of dust. As dust builds up on your furnace’s air filter, the flow of air and heating capabilities decrease. To start, dust can settle on your system’s fan blades, forcing the blades to work harder and consume more energy. Meanwhile, built-up dust on your burners makes it harder for your heat exchanger to heat up to the necessary temperature, causing your furnace to work much harder to heat your home. Furthermore, dusty burners will not burn fuel efficiently, leading to a build up of gas inside your heat exchanger. If gone untreated, this can cause a mini explosion when your burners ignite. Finally, a buildup of dust can impair the performance of important safety components, causing them to malfunction when you need them the most.

How to Fix It: Regular Cleaning & Inspection

While we recommend scheduling regular maintenance and inspection visits with your local HVAC pro, there are extra steps you can take between tune-ups. For starters, make sure to regularly vacuum inside and around your furnace, vents, and registers every month. If you have a wall furnace, clean inside the burner compartments to keep hazardous dust at bay. As a rule of thumb for natural gas furnaces, the pilot flame should burn blue to indicate a healthy and clean system. If that flame is orange or yellow, it’s time for a cleaning or tune-up visit from your HVAC expert. Additionally, don’t forget to change your air filters, ideally, every 1-3 months.

2. Problem: Cracked Ductwork

Another common furnace safety problem is restricted airflow. In many cases, closing off registers in unused rooms of your home can actually do more harm than good. In fact, the buildup of too much pressure in your ductwork from closed vents and registers can cause your ducts to leak or burst.

How to Fix It: Keep Vents & Registers Open

Because the root cause of cracked ductwork is usually inadequate airflow, the best solution is to keep floor registers and vents open during heating season. Not only will this keep your ducts from taking the hit of a pressure buildup, but it will allow for a more evenly heated home.

3. Problem: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In addition to a cracked duct, carbon monoxide poisoning is a common furnace safety problem. When you close the vents and registers in unused rooms, it’s easier for the heat exchanger to crack from built-up air pressure, which then releases deadly carbon monoxide into your home. Another way in which carbon monoxide can become an issue is if your older furnace doesn’t comply with current standard safety codes. Especially if you have a gas furnace that has not been properly rated for your building, your system could produce far too much carbon monoxide for the size of your home. In addition, you could have insufficient combustion air around your furnace.

How to Fix It: Update Your Furnace & Open Vents

As another product of restricted air flow, carbon monoxide poisoning can be easily avoided by keeping registers and vents open. Another answer to keeping carbon monoxide from invading your home air could lie in a furnace upgrade. If your furnace is older, it may not be compliant with current standard safety codes. As a result, your furnace could be producing way more carbon monoxide than the size of your home allows. In this case, reach out to a professional HVAC pro or contractor to perform an inspection of your home and system.

4. Problem: Mold

While on the topic of air quality, we’d be remiss if we left out the threat of mold as a common furnace safety problem. Any time you close vents and registers in your home, condensation will form due to the lower surface temperatures. As is true in any scenario with standing moisture, mildew and mold growth will soon follow. While this may not seem as serious as a burst duct or carbon monoxide poisoning, mold growth behind air vents or inside ductwork can pose a severe health risk to your home and family.

How to Fix It: Seal Leaks & Improve Ventilation

In many cases, closed vents and registers can lead to condensation, which causes the growth of mildew and mold. Especially common around ductwork, condensation forms during the winter months when moist, heated air comes into contact with cool surfaces. In order to keep condensation from forming on your ducts and vents, start by sealing any leaks. Once you’ve adequately sealed off air leaks in your ducts, check for proper ventilation. For both fixes, we recommend consulting an HVAC pro for the most thorough inspection and the best solutions.

5. Problem: Flammable Storage Items

Many homes have a furnace room. If you are like most families, that area often doubles as a storage or laundry space. While this may be your solution to reduce clutter in other rooms, some items can quickly become a fire hazard when stored near your furnace.

How to Fix It: Store Smartly

If you use your furnace room for storage or laundry, be sure that the items you are storing are a safe distance from your furnace. Even if the item is not flammable, anything kept near your furnace becomes a fire hazard. If your furnace room doubles as a laundry room, don’t hang laundry from any heating equipment. You should also keep cleaning solutions and items like kitty litter in airtight containers. Any products containing ammonia fumes can corrode your furnace’s heat exchanger, damaging your system and posing a serious fire hazard.

Stay Safe with the Blue Flame Team

Now that you know about some common furnace safety problems and how to fix them, you can leave the rest of it to the pros at Blue Flame! With years of experience under our belts, our team has seen it all and we take HVAC safety very seriously. If you are looking for technicians you can trust with your home and family’s safety, fill out a service request form on our site or call our pros today at (206) 388-5667!