A furnace is usually a background player at home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s worthwhile to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should 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 in your furnace to the air that circulates inside the ventilation. It usually handles this using coils or tubes that warm the air while serving as a barrier to keep gas formed 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 damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For that reason, do NOT turn on your heating if you suspect it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire household sick. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs 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 coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical smell, it could be a sign gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members might struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro experienced in furnace installation Reinholds as soon as possible so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate 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 regularly protected by the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly reduce your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is through regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they run efficiently. Hiring a certified professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to review 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 connected to the heat exchanger itself, the strain of dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will experience.