A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, keeping you warm in the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.
One source may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you suspect that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows through the ventilation. It generally accomplishes this using coils or tubes that heat up the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its key role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed through your home.
For this reason, never use your heater if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the whole household sick. Call an HVAC professional immediately if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it could be a sign gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members may experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro well versed in furnace installation Reinholds as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly protected by the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly reduce your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to check your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be swapped out 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work harder to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain parts like the heat exchanger will experience.