Modern gas-powered furnaces are clean, efficient, and effective at heating your home. However, if you want all of those benefits, you’ll need to pay attention to your furnace. There are a variety of conditions that can let you know that your furnace isn’t working as it should. One of them is an orange-colored burner flame.
The color of their burner flame is a condition that many homeowners don’t recognize as a problem. After all, a flame should be orange, right? When you strike a match or light a fireplace, that’s certainly true. In your furnace, however, it’s not. An orange flame in your furnace is a sign that something’s wrong. It could be a simple problem or one that could pose a risk to everyone in your home.
Getting it fixed, of course, depends on a proper diagnosis of the problem. Here’s why your furnace should always burn a bright blue and some of the reasons that your furnace’s flame could be orange.
Why Should Furnaces Burn Bright Blue?
Gas-powered furnaces are the most common type of residential heat source in the U.S., including here in Lincoln, NE. There are two major types of gas furnaces though. They’re either built to burn natural gas or propane. In both cases, however, they should always burn a bright blue flame when in operation.
The reason is simple. Both natural gas and propane are pure hydrocarbons, which means that they’re made of carbon atoms and hydrogen atoms and nothing else. One of the things that makes pure hydrocarbons so attractive for heating and other residential use is that they burn clean. That’s one of the secrets of why modern furnaces can achieve up to 98.5% energy efficiency rates.
However, combustion also requires the presence of oxygen. Your furnace should allow just enough oxygen to mix with its gas supply to create efficient combustion. It results in a complete combustion of the gas itself with nothing left behind. It also results in a flame with a temperature between 3,560 and 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why Your Furnace’s Flame Could Turn Orange
If your furnace’s flame turns orange, it means that the flame isn’t burning as hot as it should and that something’s wrong. It could result from a variety of problems with your furnace itself. All of them result in incomplete combustion, which is what creates the orange color. Some of them are simple to fix while others require more complex solutions. The following are the main reasons your furnace’s flame would turn orange.
Dirt or Soot in the Burner
The most common cause of an orange flame in your furnace is the presence of dirt or soot in the burner. A dirty burner might obstruct the flow of oxygen necessary for complete gas combustion. The result is an incomplete burn that appears orange instead of blue.
Fortunately, this is a problem that’s normally easy to fix. One of our HVAC technicians can clean your burner to return it to normal working condition. They can also check your furnace to determine if there’s a malfunction causing the dirt or soot buildup to begin with. If they find a problem, they’ll let you know and discuss your options when it comes to fixing it.
Incorrect Orifice Size
Your furnace’s gas orifice is a precision part meant to deliver the exact amount of gas required for complete combustion. If the one installed in your furnace is the wrong size, it could result in an orange flame. Also, a damaged gas orifice can cause an orange flame.
The solution to this problem is to contact an HVAC repair company like John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, Air, and Electrical. Our expert technician will determine if your furnace’s gas orifice is the wrong size or has suffered damage. Then, they’ll repair or replace your furnace’s gas orifice as necessary to solve the problem.
Moisture in the Mixture
Your furnace should always mix the proper amount of gas and oxygen necessary to create complete combustion. There shouldn’t be any other elements entering the mixture for any reason. However, it is sometimes possible for moisture to work its way into the mixture. That will result in an orange-colored flame.
Sometimes, the moisture could result from a bad gas from your supplier. It’s more common to see that situation with propane-fueled furnaces. In any case, the problem should go away once the moisture’s no longer mixed in with your gas supply.
Of course, you shouldn’t assume that the problem will go away on its own when it comes to your furnace. It’s always best to have a professional confirm the source of the moisture and advise you on what to do. In some instances, an experienced technician might identify other sources of moisture that will require repair.
If your furnace has a built-in humidifier, for example, it could be introducing moisture into your fuel mixture. Or, it could be the result of condensation within your furnace that’s not being appropriately drained away. Either way, it’s not a problem you’d want to leave unchecked.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore an Orange Furnace Flame
If your furnace has an orange flame, don’t ignore it. It means that the supplied gas isn’t burning completely, which poses a variety of problems. The most obvious issue is that your furnace’s efficiency will decrease. That will show up in the form of higher energy bills.
It will also accelerate the buildup of dirt and soot on your burners, exacerbating the original issue. That can turn a relatively simple fix into a more costly repair if you’re not careful. The earlier you notice and address an orange-colored flame in your furnace, the better. It will allow you to address the root cause of the problem before any additional damage occurs.
Lastly—and most seriously—an orange flame in your furnace could tip you off to a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide in your home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can result from the incomplete combustion of natural gas or propane. If there’s enough of it inside your home, you might experience headaches, nausea, and eventually, death. The orange flame that you spot in your furnace might represent your only warning before the situation escalates to the point of no return.
Leave It to the Furnace Experts
The most important thing to remember if your furnace’s flame turns orange is that you shouldn’t ignore it. It’s a sign of a problem that you need to deal with immediately. So, if you spot this telltale sign of trouble, contact John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, Air, and Electrical right away. Then, we’ll dispatch one of our expert technicians to find and fix your problem.
We’ve served the Lincoln, Nebraska community for over 20 years. We offer a complete range of Heating installation, maintenance, and repair services to keep your home’s HVAC in top shape. We’re also the recipients of the Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Award and its Excellence in Customer Service award, so you’ll always know you’re dealing with a reputable HVAC service provider. If you see an orange flame in your furnace or experience any other heating issues, call John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, Air, and Electrical, and we’ll solve your problem without delay.