A furnace is usually a background player for your home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to learn the symptoms 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 of your furnace to the air that circulates through the ventilation. It generally accomplishes this using coils or tubes that warm the air while serving as a barrier to keep byproducts formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its important role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed through your home.
For this reason, do NOT turn on your heater if you suspect it has a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the entire family sick. Contact an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you believe your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical smell, it may be evidence gasses are leaking 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 health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members may struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you spot black sooty buildup on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something could be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Hodgenville as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should 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 check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly reduce your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be replaced 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will endure.