According to CityLab, almost 90% of American homes had Air conditioners by 2015. As the earth becomes warmer, leading to hotter and longer summer, your air conditioner has never been more important. Yet, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that Air conditioners cause 1% of annual fires with 120 injuries, 40 deaths, and $82 million in property damage.
An air conditioner can start a fire, but it won’t explode unless it uses a combustible refrigerant gas like propane. It’s rare for one to explode because most air conditioners use non-combustible gas. However, mechanical and electrical problems can turn an AC into a fire hazard.
Overworking can lead to overheating, which causes the air conditioner to catch fire. It is more common in the summer and can be prevented with proper maintenance. This article explains the problems that can cause AC fires and how to avoid them.
Why an air conditioner causes fire
For you to understand this, I am going to explain each problem and follow it with measures that you can use to prevent them. These problems influence each other; for example, debris may cause the air conditioner to overheat, and flammable objects cause the fire to increase.
By following them, you will not only ensure that your AC doesn’t pose a threat to life and property. You will also ensure that it operates well, reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs.
Air conditioners use an electrical pump to compress the refrigerant gas. The compressor causes internal combustion, which makes the air conditioner to heat up. The gas also heats up, but it doesn’t explode because it is non-combustible.
The most common gases used in air conditioners are R22, R12, and R134. No matter how hot they get, these gases won’t catch fire. However, they produce greenhouse gases, which increase global warming and skin cancer.
Propane is a cleaner but more combustible coolant. When propane leaks, it combines with oxygen in the air, which can be ignited by the heat from the compressor, which could cause an explosion.
However, you don’t have to worry about this because most air conditioners use non-combustible gas. However, there are safe and clean coolants that are friendly to the environment. You can retrofit an AC to use this cleaner type of refrigerant.
You will have to change essential components, and there is no guarantee that the unit will run well on the new refrigerant. It’s better to hire a professional to maintain and repair the AC or buy one that uses a cleaner refrigerant.
During maintenance, ask the technician to find and repair the leaks. It prevents future accidents, saving money, and protecting the environment. You should also know that it’s a crime to release the gas into the air intentionally.
When Dirt accumulates
As air flows through the air conditioner, it carries some dirt. This should not be a problem until it starts to accumulate, to cover and clog the internal components of the AC unit. When the vents and filters become clogged, air can no longer flow through. It offsets the balance of air in the AC and creates sparks. Then the debris catches fire, causing the air conditional to catch fire.
It takes a lot of debris to clog the air conditioner. So it will take a while unless the area has an abnormal amount of Dirt. You can use a two-part plan to prevent debris from accumulating in the air conditioner.
The first is to make a routine of cleaning the body and surroundings of your air conditioner. You should also change the filter at least once every two months, especially if you have pets in the house. Watch this video on how to change the filter of your AC.
Secondly, hire a professional to inspect the unit occasionally. While regular cleaning is good for the air conditional, you need a professional to inspect, diagnose, and clean the internal components. You also need a professional to change damaged parts. According to experts, you only need a professional to service your AC unit once or twice a year.
When it overheats
Overheating happens because the air conditioner is overworked or when a mechanical component fails. Summers are getting hotter, so you will use the AC more. The heat puts more strain on the air conditioner, causing it to heat faster. The mechanical components also start to fail if they are not well lubricated. For example, there could be ignition in the motor if it is not properly lubricated.
When a professional services your Air conditioner, they will clean the debris and lubricate the mechanical components. Since one visit per year is enough, it is better to schedule the inspection for spring or early summer. It prepares the air conditioner for summer and the increased usage and heat that follows.
The wiring problems are common with every heavy electrical equipment. Air conditioners use a large amount of electric current, so the wires must be able to handle this. Due to the heavy load, the wires might also lose their integrity as they become old, damaged, and lose. They can cause an electrical spark, which will then catch on debris or any nearby flammable material.
The spark is usually caused by a short circuit, electrical fluctuations, and power surges. It is harder for weaker and older wires to supply the voltage that the air conditioner uses. Most times, you will see early signs that the wires have started to lose their integrity. The wires will begin to melt, and you will smell the smoke. It is time to call a technician.
There are various cases in which the wiring can start a fire. To prevent this, you must ensure that the wires are properly installed and occasionally inspected. Don’t connect the AC to an extension cord; instead, install it on a dedicated electrical circuit and use the appropriate wires. Also, make sure that there isn’t water or any flammable material along the route of the cables.
The wires must be in the open, as this allows you to spot any damage easily. So don’t run them under the carpet, or through walls and doors. While some homeowners may want to run the wires by themselves, it’s better to hire an HVAC technician,
Placing flammable objects near the Air conditioner
Since we have already established that air conditioners can ignite fires, it is better not to have flammable objects around them. Flammable objects can easily catch and spread fire; examples include books, grass, gasoline, and debris.
The best way to prevent this is by creating a safe zone around the air conditioner. Also, ensure that no flammable object gets to this zone. You need to factor this in during installation by ensuring that the ac unit is securely anchored and installed in a safe location. With this, you will be confident that there is nothing to catch the flame even if the air conditioner starts a fire.
You have to properly install an air conditioner if you want it to be safe and efficient. Note that compared to window units, center ACs are less likely to cause a fire. The insurance hub suggests that installing a window unit to slightly lean outward will make rainwater drain faster, preventing water from staying on the AC. Without maintenance, the components of your AC may start to malfunction, causing it to stop working or start a fire.
So remember to call the technician at least once a year. Don’t wait for the unit to develop a fault. However, you can never be too careful. So always have a fire extinguisher nearby.