What Are the Most Common Causes of HVAC Fires in the Home?

HVAC fires may not be the first hazard that comes to mind when thinking about home safety. However, in an average year, heating or cooling equipment is directly implicated in more than 58,000 structure fires in the United States.

First, get annual professional preventative maintenance for the air conditioner and the furnace at the outset of the cooling and heating seasons. The procedure includes inspection of all functions as well as critical safety components that prevent HVAC fires.

Air Conditioners

About 6,400 HVAC fires every year originate from central air conditioning and room air conditioners.

  • Change the air filter monthly. A severely clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause the AC to run almost continuously. This may dangerously overheat the 220-volt compressor motor installed in the outside unit, as well as the blower fan located in the indoor air handler.
  • Keep the outdoor unit clear. Don’t allow weeds and other vegetation to encroach on the outdoor central AC component. Clear at least 2 feet of open space on all sides of the unit.
  • Window air conditioners should be plugged directly into a wall outlet rated to supply the correct amperage. Never use extension cords to power window AC units.


Heating systems account for approximately 52,000 HVAC fires each year.

  • Change the air filter per manufacturer’s recommendations. Insufficient airflow due to a dirty filter may overheat furnace components.
  • Keep the furnace enclosure (closet, etc.) clear of dust and debris. Don’t use the furnace area for general storage. Keep flammable materials a minimum of 3 feet away from the furnace.
  • Inspect the furnace vent pipe at the roof. Leaves, bird’s nests, and other debris may restrict proper venting. This can overheat the furnace combustion chamber and potentially cause a fire. It may also cause dangerous carbon monoxide gas to infiltrate the house.
  • Never attempt to repair or adjust a furnace yourself. DIY efforts may be dangerous. Leave furnace troubleshooting and repair to qualified HVAC service technicians.

For professional service to prevent HVAC fires, contact Paitson Bros., serving our Wabash Valley neighbors since 1922.

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    Jeff Paitson Jeff Paitson is a third generation business owner who continues to run the business with the same values that have been passed down from previous generations since 1922.

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