A furnace is often a background player for your home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It regularly won't be noticed until something goes wrong.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves through the system. It usually does this using coils or tubes that heat the air while serving 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?
Because of its central role, it’s no 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 circulate throughout your home.
For obvious reasons, never turn on your heating if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole household ill. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you believe your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it could be an indicator that gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members may experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Arlington as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary 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 generally included in the warranty. You should review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty might not 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 minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Calling a trained professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to inspect 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 are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.