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Thread: Under which conditions can an heater vent be a fire hazard?

  1. #1 Under which conditions can an heater vent be a fire hazard? 
    New Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    I was wondering how dangerous is an heating vent as a fire hazard.

    Can flammable material (cottons, linens, paper, carpet etc) catch fire if put on a vent?

    Moreover, can objects fall inside an floor air vent and cause a fire?

    Finally, if a towel or blanket is stuffed inside an air vent, is it a fire hazard?

    I'm also curious about the chemistry/physics involved. It seems to me that the air coming from an heat vent is nowhere near hot enough to ignite most materials, but many people I know swear it can be a danger.

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  3. #2  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    If the hot air coming from your HVAC can set towels alight, you may want to lay off the blood thinners.

    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  4. #3  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    Mar 2014
    if forced air, with fan, then any material in vent would have to get past fan to get to heating element and this may be quite a distance. blocking vents may make fan work harder. blocking too many vents could stress fan to point of failure. like Flick said the air coming from vent should not be hot enough to start a fire. i think you are too worried about nothing.
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  5. #4  
    New Member
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    Apr 2014
    I just want to make sure it is safe so I don't endanger anyone else living in the house. Also, I have roommates who have a less than stellar understanding of science and I would like them not to freak out / have them accuse me of being reckless if they find a book or a cardboard box on top of a heater vent.
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  6. #5  
    Moderator Moderator
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    Nov 2011
    city of wine and roses
    The biggest problem is not necessarily in the cardboard box itself. If you block the outlet, you'll be stressing the system. If that system includes a fan - that could overheat and cause fire problems all of its own. If there are parts of the piping/system where heated air can accumulate, blocking the free flow of air through the system can cause localised overheating.

    As far as I know, all household heat systems and sources should be treated with respect.

    You don't drape towels or clothes over an oil column heater to dry out, you don't block the free flow of warmed air from an outlet, you don't stack papers or boxes on hot objects or over hot airflows. The most important cumulative effect is drying out. Put a stack of paper or cloth on a hot surface or outlet, nothing much happens. What you can't see is that the normal moisture content is being removed. Leave it there longer so that it is repeatedly or continuously heated and you finish up with it becoming quite literally tinder dry. It might not scorch or smoulder or burst into flames - but it is much more likely to do so. And will you be there all day every day to ensure that doesn't happen?
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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