A furnace is usually a background player in your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to learn the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that is 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 moves throughout the air ducts. It usually accomplishes this through coils or tubes that warm the air while functioning as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting 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 hazardous. A damaged heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For obvious reasons, never use your furnace if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole household sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you think your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it may be an indicator that gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the 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 buildup on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something could be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Hasbrouck Heights right away so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally covered by the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as 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 with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.