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3 Heating Failures That Pose Immediate Dangers To Your Home

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You probably don't think of a gas, propane, or oil-burning furnace as hazardous. While these devices use combustion to generate heat, they're well-designed to protect you and prevent catastrophic failures. Unfortunately, even the best-engineered systems can occasionally fail, and hundreds of people die yearly from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the US alone.

The good news is that keeping on top of repairs and maintenance for your heating equipment can reduce or eliminate nearly all associated risks. Along with using and properly maintaining CO detectors, these steps are more than enough to keep your family safe. Still, it's important to understand which issues can pose risks, so keep reading to learn about three surprisingly dangerous heating failures.

1. Cracked Heat Exchangers

It's easy to think of a furnace operating like a whole-home fireplace, but these systems work in a much different (and safer) way. When your furnace burns natural gas (or another fuel such as propane), that heat energy goes directly into the exhaust with other harmful combustion products. Without further action, all that heat would escape through your furnace's exhaust flue.

So how does your furnace keep you warm and safe? The answer is the heat exchanger. The exhaust travels through the heat exchanger, which extracts heat while keeping the harmful combustion products separate from your home's air. Unfortunately, older heat exchangers can crack, potentially allowing these gases to escape. A cracked exchanger is a critical safety issue that requires immediate attention.

2. Flame Roll-Out

Your furnace's burners produce a flame directly into the furnace's combustion chamber. While most furnaces don't use sealed combustion chambers, the system's design ensures the exhaust gases travel directly into the heat exchanger. As a result, you don't need to worry about flames or fumes containing carbon monoxide escaping from the furnace cabinet.

However, various furnace problems can cause a condition known as a flame roll-out. A roll-out occurs when flames escape from the combustion chamber, potentially damaging furnace components or releasing carbon monoxide into your home. If your furnace shuts down due to a flame roll-out issue, it's critical to stop using it immediately and call a professional.

3. Delayed Ignition

Delayed ignition occurs when too much gas builds up in the furnace before ignition begins. Instead of a smooth and steady flame, there's a sudden bang as the excess gas ignites and explodes. Delayed ignition is usually unmistakable since it will produce a loud pop or bang that's typically audible from almost anywhere in the home.

Delayed ignition can have numerous causes, including excessive moisture, old and rusty burners, soot build-up, and other problems that can block the burner orifices. While your furnace won't explode, the bang you hear can cause substantial damage and potentially dangerous issues. If your furnace is popping and banging as it ignites, shut it down and contact a heating repair professional right away.