A furnace is often a background player for your home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s worthwhile to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you believe that might 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 moves through the air ducts. It typically accomplishes this with coils or tubes that heat up the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its important role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow throughout your home.
For this reason, don't ever use your heating if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire household ill. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it could be evidence gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members may struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If your alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Justin right away so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should differ depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often included in the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly shrink your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they operate efficiently. Calling a trained professional to check your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be changed every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.