A furnace is often a background player at home, ensuring you're warm during the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until something goes wrong.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s important to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that flows throughout the system. It generally accomplishes this via coils or tubes that heat up the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its central role, it’s no surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For this reason, never turn on your heating if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make your entire household ill. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it could be evidence gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members may experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What to Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Justin as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly included in the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm 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 easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Calling a certified professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal 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 longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.