A typical residential house will usually have a boiler or a furnace for heating.
It is up to personal preference on which on to choose for you house. However, we’ve noted that furnaces slightly edge boilers in terms of usage numbers.
The place where the furnace is located is called the furnace room. And the boiler in the boiler room. While the latter makes me think about aggressive salespeople making cold calls in a call center, I assure you it’s not.
While not necessarily required, the furnace in a house is usually located in the basement. A builder might suggest somewhere else for the flow of of systems. But that is not the topic of discussion here.T
here are 2 main concerns with the configuration of a furnace room.
- Fire hazard
- Adequate venting
And they are meant to minimize the potential risk of fire.
The furnace room might be confined to a small room or in an open area.
And the area around the furnace has to be meticulously planned in case of an accident happening. Accidents that go on here can be disastrous.
Wood structures and fixtures
This is why there should be no wood structures like framing or partition walls positioned in the close vicinity of the heating plant.
When the total elimination of wood structures and fixtures is no possible, they should be protected with fire resistant material like fire-resistant finishing or plasterboards. So have a look out for exposed wooden parts or even the wall studs.
If you are one of those individuals who just needs to make every inch of the house aesthetically pleasing, you might be tempted to erect wood paneling with decorative surfaces around the furnace to beautify the place.
This increases the risk of fire hazard especially the wall lining up the chimney.
I urge you to restraint yourself from doing so. It would be like hanging a carrot in front of a donkey. It might not be able to reach it under normal circumstances. But the hanging stick can break without warning… allowing the animal to consume the cute looking vegetable.
If you simple cannot compromise on your artistic integrity, then at least cover it with fire-code plasterboard.
The standard practice of contractors is to allow for at least 2-inches of clearance space between the chimney and any wood-based paneling or framing.
So make sure to pull out your ruler for measurement.
I shouldn’t have to inform you that going above 2 inches is perfectly alright. Just don’t go below 2.
Another common practice of homeowners is to use the spaces around the burning furnace as storage space due to limited space around the house.
A grown up should instinctively realize that this is not a safe practice at all. They can add fuel to a fire should one break out.
If you’d like to take your chance and simply cannot avoid storing items around the furnace room, then at least check for combustible items and remove them promptly. Not doing so is asking for trouble.
I once had a lighter explode in the car because it was exposed to sunlight. So these things are no laughing matter. It can happen without warning.
Chimney extended from furnace room
When planners plan the layout and structure of a building, they often set up chimneys that extend from the furnace room.
When this is configured upwards through other rooms towards the roof, take note that this can become a gateway for flames to enter into other areas of a house.
This can happen when there are huge openings installed at the joint between the ceiling of the furnace room and the chimney. In this case, cover up this part with noncombustible materials for a basic deterrence.
Asbestos used to be a mainstay material used in home building. But then it was learned that it is a major health hazard that causes cancer.
In older homes, do a routine check for asbestos insulation used around the furnace and in heating pipes.
If possible, replace them when discovered.
It goes without saying that there must be proper ventilation to remove all the heat generated in a furnace room.
While builders will undoubtedly take this into consideration, there is no certainty that things were done right.
Conduct a general inspection of the inlet and outlet openings. Vent opening should either direct air to the exterior of the house, or to a large open area inside.
That is not all.
For efficient venting, the size of the vent openings should also be scrutinized.
The average furnace room requires 1 sq.inch of opening for air per 5,000 BTU. There should be a label on the furnace indicating it’s capacity for homeowners to work out the numbers themselves.
If in doubt, 15 by 15 inch inlet and outlets should be enough to handle most residential homes.
The furnace room is not a place in the house to compromise on safety practices. Accidents that happen here can lead to total catastrophe. It is recommended that all types of fire safety precautions are taken to ensure peace of mind