A furnace is almost always a background player for your home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until something breaks down.
One cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that circulates throughout the air ducts. It generally does this via coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For obvious reasons, don't ever use your furnace if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire family sick. Call an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it could be evidence gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you spot black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something could be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Auburn and Opelika as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if required, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to check your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be swapped out every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't connected to the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will endure.