Dirty Heater Coils in Your Air Handler are a Fire Hazard

One of the primary causes of heating issues in the home can be linked to dust inside the furnace. In Florida, residents rarely turn on their heating units except on the few cold days of the year. Dust and debris can restrict air flow and cause serious issues with the unit.

Dirty Dusty Air Conditioner

You wouldn't think that dust inside the furnace could cause such a serious problem, but the furnace in your home works on the same principle as your vehicle. You'd never go years without servicing your vehicle by maintaining the oil or changing the air filters. A dust-filled furnace won't work properly, but in more severe cases, it's been linked to home and business fires.

The Workings of Your Furnace
To understand the importance of maintaining your furnace, let's learn how the furnace operates. A system that uses forced air is one of the most common types of systems for Florida residents. It uses the same returns for central air, which is what most homes have in the state. A heat exchange warms air before blowing it into the ducts through the unit's fan. A return duct pulls air from the home, circulates the air through the heat exchange and blows it through the ducts. This circulation continues until the home reaches the correct temperature dictated by the thermostat.

How Does Dust and Debris Interrupt That Flow?

When the system sits for most of the year unused, dust and debris can accumulate on the heater coils in your air handler. The first day you turn on the system, the heat is trying to burn off the dust, but that might be difficult depending on the amount of dust on the system. Instead of burning away, the dust has the potential to catch fire. Along with the fire hazard potential, a clogged system may result from all that dust. Much of the dust buildup will clog the air filter. Reduced airflow to the system will cause the heat exchanger to work overtime, which can cause it to overheat. Along with an burned out heat exchange that can cause the system to fail, clogs can cause other serious issues like furnace failure.

Reduced and Unhealthy Air Flow
When the system is dusty and dirty, the air pulled through the filter and into the system can be filled with that debris. After it's heated, the dirty air is sent to the home through ducts that can be filled with dust too. Anyone with allergies or serious respiratory issues will find that the air is dangerous for them to breathe. If there are people without allergies, the air can still be a problem since it's filled with dirt and dust. It's not a healthy situation for anyone. Indoor air quality can be seriously compromised, and the effects can be very negative to your health over time.

What Should I do if I Smell Burning?
After you turn on the system for the first time, if you smell burning, you should immediately shut down the furnace. Make sure that there isn't a fire in the furnace and call emergency services if you see sparks or fire. If there isn't a fire in the unit, you should call a professional HVAC company who is experienced in cleaning and maintenance of furnaces in your area.

The best way to avoid a fire hazard in the first place is to have an HVAC company clean and check your system before you fire it up for the short heating season. The HVAC technician will clean the dirty heater coils as well as replace the filter, which will stop the dust from entering the system at all.