Startling Boiler & Furnace Facts

Startling Boiler & Furnace Facts from the NFPA

Is your boiler or furnace safe?

That’s what the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) wants every American homeowner to know before it’s too late. A well-maintained furnace or boiler has slim to no odds of causing a heartbreaking home fire, but the key word here is well-maintained.

If you can’t remember the last time your boiler or furnace was serviced, if it’s old or if you’ve noticed anything unusual about it, you’re at a higher risk of a furnace-caused home fire.

According to the NFPA, heating equipment — including boilers and furnaces — causes over 53,000 home fires per year, 400 civilian deaths, over 1,500 injuries and almost $900 million in property damages.

The good news is that, overall, fires and deaths are on the decline, although injuries remain the same. This is largely due to more consumer education and better practices when using heating systems. Plus, more Americans are enjoying central heat rather than relying on stand-alone heating sources (like portable heaters), which is a much safer strategy.

Boiler and Furnace Home Safety

Home fires peak in the dead of winter and in summer. As we move into cooler weather, such dangers are largely due to heaters, overworked HVAC systems, candles and holiday lights. The majority of heating source fires are caused by space heaters, which result in 70 percent of injuries and 80 percent of deaths. Still, that leaves a wide margin for ill-functioning furnaces and boilers to cause a tragedy.

Each year, over 7,000 home fires are caused by furnaces. These systems cause 30 civilian deaths, 50 injuries, and almost $90 million in damages. Central heating is involved in 14 percent of these disasters.

The breakdown by fuel type shows some uniformity, with 38 percent electric, 31 percent gas fueled, and 30 percent liquid fueled (the remaining 2 percent are solid-fueled, which is a rare fuel source in the United States).

Taking Precautions

Unclassified mechanical error is the most common cause of central heating fires. However, automatic control failure, failure to clean and “heat source too close to combustibles” also top the list.

As you can see, oftentimes these fires are preventable. Having your furnace or boiler serviced at least once per year, ideally before you begin using it heavily again (right now is prime time!), is the No. 1 way to make sure your HVAC system is working well.

Some signs only an HVAC technician will notice, so it’s best to have a pro in your corner. Plus, these service calls can extend the life of your furnace.

Other causes of a fire, including failure to clean your heat source or keeping it too close to dangerous items, are largely within the homeowner’s control. Covering vents with rugs, furniture or curtains is common, but not a good idea. Furnace filters should be swapped out regularly, as often as once per month in the winter.

To keep safe and warm this autumn, call Roberts Mechanical today for a service and inspection for your furnace or boiler.