A furnace is usually a background player for your home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s worthwhile to learn 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 in your furnace to the air that flows through the air ducts. It typically handles this through coils or tubes that heat up the air while serving 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 be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow throughout your home.
For this reason, do NOT use your heater if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the whole family ill. Contact an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to switch off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside 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 tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro experienced in furnace installation Lodi as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary 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. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Hiring a certified professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, clogs in the air filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.