A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, ensuring you're warm during the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to know the signs 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 transition heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves throughout the ventilation. It generally does this with coils or tubes that heat the air while acting 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 isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For that reason, don't ever run your furnace if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire household ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional immediately if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it might be an indicator that gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If your 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 find black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence 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 Logan right away so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often covered by 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 Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to examine your furnace for broken-down parts, clogged filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be replaced 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work harder to complete its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will endure.