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The Scary Way Your Furnace Could Start a House Fire (and How to Prevent It)

water heater tips and definitions

According to FEMA, heating appliances were the second highest cause of residential building fires in 2014

One of the biggest culprits of these fires was furnace flame rollouts. (Yes, it’s as dangerous as it sounds.)

Flame rollout happens when flames escape and “roll” outside of the closed combustion area. 
And if those open flames come into contact with insulation or nearby flammable objects, it won’t be long before you’re dealing with a dangerous house fire.

Want to know if your furnace is having rollout problems? Check for:

  • Singed components on the outside of the furnace
  • Discoloration of the furnace cover

See signs of flame rollout? Contact us ASAP. We’ll send a technician over to determine the cause and fix it to prevent a house fire.

So what causes this scary situation? Let’s take a look...

What causes flame rollout?

Flame rollout happens when there isn’t enough oxygen to “feed” your furnace. 

You see, your furnace needs a mixture of oxygen and fuel to create heat. But, if there’s not enough ventilation to provide oxygen, the furnace flames will “roll out” in search of oxygen elsewhere.

Yeah, it’s super dangerous. So, if you’ve spotted the signs of flame rollout (singed components and discolored furnace cover) you need to contact an HVAC tech ASAP.

Don’t see the signs? Then read on to learn what helps to prevent flame rollout…

Preventing flame rollout

If you haven’t spotted any red flags suggesting rollout problems, let’s keep it that way. 

Tips on how to keep your furnace safe from flame rollout include:

  • Regularly check and change your air filter- A clogged air filter can cause a buildup of soot inside the flue (the tunnel where combustion gases exit outdoors). And when soot buildup blocks the flue, this also restricts your furnace’s oxygen supply.
  • Check for obstructions in your furnace flue- Your furnace flue connects to the outside, so obstructions like a bird’s nest, leaves or other debris are very likely and can prevent your furnace from getting oxygen. Note: This may be difficult and dangerous as most flues exit via the roof. We suggest leaving this to a professional unless you know what you’re doing.
  • Install a rollout switch- These devices detect and shut off power to the furnace when the burner area exceeds normal and safe temperatures. This prevents rollout from happening in the first place.
  • Schedule annual furnace maintenance- Annual maintenance allows our techs to spot any issues early on that could lead to flame rollout. We’ll make sure everything is working properly to avoid the abnormal situations that lead to flame rollout.

Need help preventing flame rollout?

If you’ve spotted a sign of flame rollout or if you’re ready to schedule your furnace maintenance, we’re ready to help.

Schedule your appointment today and we’ll send a professional over ASAP to keep you and your home safe.


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