The Top Fall Furnace Fire Safety Tips You Can’t Ignore

furnace fire safetyA few of my good buddies work down at the local fire station closest to my home. Every year when autumn rolls around and the kids head back to school we get together to watch a football game or two. Naturally, we end up talking a bit about work, and they always kindly remind me to discuss furnace fire safety with my clients.

These guys really do see it all; they know just how potentially dangerous gas furnaces can be if they aren’t properly maintained and serviced. After all, it makes sense that the small combustible reaction required for your furnace to generate heat can be a fire hazard if left unchecked.

Now, I always make sure to give my customers the lowdown on caring for their furnace when I’m out on maintenance calls, but I really want to drive these points home. Let’s discuss why fall furnace fire safety is so important—and what a responsible homeowner like yourself must do to keep their furnace, and their family, safe this year.

Why You Can’t Ignore Fall Furnace Fire Safety Tips

fall fire safety tips for your furnaceYour furnace is a pretty incredible piece of machinery; it keeps your entire home nice and toasty all winter long and rarely puts up a fuss. But it also has the potential to be a fire hazard in your home. Did you know that the most common cause of residential fires is heating equipment such as furnaces?

Did you know that the most common cause of residential fires is heating equipment such as furnaces?

Now, I don’t say this to scare you, but rather to bring your awareness to the importance of furnace fire prevention. After all, furnace fires don’t usually just happen out of the blue. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the number one reason these types of fires occur is failure to properly clean and maintain heating equipment, like furnaces.

… the number one reason these types of fires occur is failure to properly clean and maintain heating equipment, like furnaces.

The good news is that many heating-related residential fires can actually be prevented. With this in mind, there’s a lot you can do to minimize the risk of a furnace fire igniting in your home.

What Responsible Homeowners Must Do for Furnace Fire Safety this Fall

What must a responsible homeowner like yourself do to keep your furnace and your family safe and warm this winter? Well, simply put, schedule proper fall furnace maintenance performed by an HVAC professional. However, in the fall when the warm summer air starts to cool down and we power up our furnaces, homeowners can proactively run through this checklist, in addition to calling in a pro, as part of a fall furnace fire safety regime:

  • #1: Inspect your furnace before the first ignition. Before you turn it on for the first time each fall, have your furnace properly serviced by a qualified professional. This is the number one thing you can do to ensure it is fire safe and will remain so all season long. While I recommend you do everything else on this list as well, if you only do one thing let it be this one. The pros will inspect and clean the coils, test the ignition system, check the wires, and ensure that the ducts and the filter are clean, as well as that air is flowing properly. Over my many years in the HVAC business, I’ve developed a very thorough 30 point furnace tune-up that includes all of these checks and more to ensure that your furnace is in tip-top shape and ready to go for the fall and winter.
  • #2: Locate and learn how to shut off the main gas valve. At the end of your furnace maintenance appointment, ask the pro to show you what to do in case of an emergency or a fire. It is very unlikely that you will have a problem with fire safety now that your furnace has been inspected and tuned up, but it’s important to be prepared just in case. Typically, an HVAC expert can show you where the main gas valve is and teach you how to shut it off. Make sure you are comfortable doing this. This way, if you smell gas or suspect there’s a problem with your furnace, you can shut the gas off immediately, then call for professional assistance.
  • #3: Check your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. My firefighter buddies always check these two things when they come over for a game—it’s like a reflex for them. I always chuckle a bit to myself when they do it, but they’ve really taught me the importance of checking if these fire safety tools are working. If anything goes wrong with your furnace, from producing smoke to releasing unsafe levels of dangerous carbon monoxide, these two pieces of equipment must be on alert so that they can, in turn, alert you of a problem. If either of them sound, evacuate the house immediately and call 911 for help.
  • #4: Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Again, I have my firefighter buddies to thank for this tip—they actually gifted me with my first fire extinguisher! Now I keep one on each floor of my house. I recommend keeping a fire extinguisher near or in the furnace room in a place that is easily accessible. In case of an emergency, you may be able to extinguish some flames, although your top priority should always be to quickly get your family out and away from your home, and get the local fire station on the line.
  • #5: Clean your furnace room. It’s really important to keep the area around your furnace clean and clear of debris. A lot of furnace fires are actually caused by surrounding flammable debris igniting unexpectedly. Now, I know the furnace room might seem like a good place to store things, but it isn’t. In fact, it is probably the worst place as it creates a fire hazard. Make sure that you aren’t storing anything flammable like paper, paint, or clothing in your furnace room, and check that any other items are not at all in contact with or too close to the furnace. It’s also a good idea to vacuum your furnace room regularly, as dust bunnies can be quite flammable too.
  • #6: Change your filter monthly. A dirty furnace filter is a pretty big fire hazard. If it gets too clogged up with dust and debris it can collapse into the furnace and ignite. You will have your filter changed for you when you have your annual maintenance done, but you’ll need to change it on a monthly basis to be safe. If you don’t know how to do it, ask a furnace maintenance professional to show you—they’d be happy to! Set monthly reminders on your calendar or on your phone so you don’t forget. As a bonus, changing your filter regularly will also optimize the airflow and efficiency of your furnace.

I know I sound like a broken record, but just to reiterate—the most important fall furnace fire safety tip is to have a pro do annual fall furnace maintenance before your power it up for the season. That, in combination with my (and my firefighter buddies’) tips, is the simplest way to help prevent a heating-related fire in your home.

Although this may seem like a lot of work, especially during the busy season of getting kids back to school and the upcoming holidays, trust me when I say it is 100% worth it. When you have a pro do a thorough servicing of your HVAC system, you will be able to rest assured that your furnace will be in great shape to keep your family and your home safe and warm all winter long.

At Bell Brothers, we’re big fans of the whole home approach to safety, energy efficiency, and health. Our trained HVAC professionals would not only be happy to service your furnace before you fire it up this fall, we’d love to make sure your insulation and windows are also working efficiently to keep your home toasty warm during the cold season. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Wondering how to finance a new furnace, or maybe even new windows and plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.

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