Firefighters combat HVAC fire in Modesto

Can an air conditioner or furnace catch on fire?

This might seem like a ridiculous question to some. Your AC is going full throttle and your house is cool as a cucumber, but somewhere inside your air conditioner, a fire sparks. Or, on the other hand, it’s 30 degrees outside, your furnace is blasting, and the thought of a fire is probably the last thing on your mind in the middle of winter.

But maybe it shouldn’t be.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is just one of many gas furnace dangers, and it’s important to keep in mind that yes, your gas furnace or AC can catch on fire if not properly maintained. We’re here to educate you on the five biggest HVAC fire hazards, and to give you pro tips on what to do if your HVAC catches fire.

1. Electrical Problems

Electrical problems are a leading HVAC fire hazard. As connections age, they often become loose. This leads to a greater power exertion from the furnace, causing burnt wires and, unfortunately, the chance of a furnace fire. If you notice smoke or burning smells coming from  your gas furnace, have your HVAC technician check your electrical ASAP.

2. Gas Pressure and Connections

Low gas pressure can result in condensation in the heat exchanger, whereas high gas pressure can result in result in an overly hot heat exchanger, resulting in subsequent damage and HVAC fire hazards. Any poorly fitting gas connections can result in gas leaks, negatively affected indoor air quality, and a huge gas furnace danger. Have your gas pressure and connections checked during routine maintenance.

3. Crowded Furnace

An easy problem to avoid (and also a problem that can quickly head to an HVAC fire) is having a crowded furnace or air conditioner. If you have boxes, crates, brooms, cleaning supplies, or any other materials near or resting against your furnace, move them immediately. A crowded furnace is a huge furnace danger that can cause your HVAC to catch fire – or worse. Make sure to leave at least three feet of space all the way around your HVAC unit to avoid fire hazards.

4.Leaking Fuel Lines

A leaking fuel line might seem like an obvious HVAC fire hazard. But without proper maintenance and inspection, many people do not notice a leaking fuel line until it is too late. A fuel line leak means that highly flammable fuel (oil, gas, or otherwise) is coming into contact with the hot elements of your HVAC unit. Heat plus fuel means fire, and that’s never an equation you want to handle. If you smell oil or gas near your furnace, call an HVAC technician right away.

5. Cracked Heat Exchanger

A cracked heat exchanger on your HVAC system is no small issue. This can cause a carbon monoxide leak, which in itself is dangerous enough. Not only, however, is CO2 poisonous if breathed, but it is also flammable. Having excess carbon monoxide in or around your HVAC unit is only asking for trouble, resulting in an HVAC fire or other furnace dangers.

What to Do if Your HVAC Catches Fire

The most important thing to do if your HVAC catches fire is to exit the building and surrounding area right away. Then, call emergency services to have them fight off the fire and ensure that you don’t suffer extensive damages to your building, belongings or employees.

After everyone is safe and the fire is contained, reach out to your local HVAC technician to have them inspect your unit or install a brand new one. Ask them about ways in which you can avoid HVAC fires in the future.

How Can I Avoid HVAC Fire Hazards?

Have your HVAC technician check your heater and air conditioner at least once yearly. This is undoubtedly the most important (and most convenient) method of avoiding HVAC fires and other furnace damages.

HVAC fire prevention isn’t just up to your service provider – you should also make yourself aware of various furnace fire hazards and how to spot them. If you smell gas, burning, oil, or notice that your HVAC unit is especially cluttered, take measures to fix the problem or call your technician for an unscheduled HVAC inspection ASAP.