A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears. 

One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s important to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that might 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 circulates through the air ducts. It usually does this via coils or tubes that heat up the air while functioning 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? 

Because of its key role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate through your home. 

For that reason, don't ever use your heating if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family ill. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you think your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair. 

Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger: 

  • Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off. 
  • Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it might be evidence gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign. 
  • Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you notice poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home right away and then call for help. 
  • Soot: If you notice black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something could be seriously wrong.

What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked 

If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro experienced in furnace installation Hasbrouck Heights right away so they can examine your system and, if necessary, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000. 

Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly included in the warranty. You should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly lower your bill.  

How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home  

One of the easiest ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to inspect 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 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.