Catastrophic Furnace Failure

Furnace manufacturers are fighting day and night to make home, office and industrial heating safer. In large part these efforts are incredibly successful. When you hear of a home burning down, it’s more likely that someone left their stove on than a furnace malfunctioned. This of course, begs a few questions: Do furnaces still explode? What does it take for a furnace to explode? What happens if it does explode?

Failure Upon Failure

Depending on the furnace design, an explosion is going to need at least half a dozen separate pieces of equipment to fail or a fair number of absurd design flaws in order for anything to happen. The pressure relief valves have to fail and become stuck shut. The furnace’s controller has to ignore or never see excessive temperature and pressure readings. The entire furnace has to run until it’s built up sufficient heat and pressure to actually explode, which it would likely never do under a regular duty cycle.

A pressure explosion needs everything to go wrong. These are the sort of odds that make winning the lottery look easy. Even so, with seven billion people in the world and likely just as many heating systems having been built, failures happen. Just, what doe sit look like?

Creating a Failure

The only way to see a failure is to make it happen. Luckily, the Mythbusters have done this for us. It goes without saying, do not disable the safety devices on any system. Don’t do it at home. Don’t do it at work. It just ends in tears. Let’s watch.

That’s a good reminder to always test your safety systems, keep up on your maintenance, and remember, not every pipe is meant to be drip-free.

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