A furnace is usually a background player in your home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s worthwhile to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can 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 in your furnace to the air that moves throughout the system. It typically accomplishes this via coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep gas formed 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 damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For this reason, don't ever run your furnace if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make your entire family sick. Call 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 switches off: Cracks in the heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members may experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel sick, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty accumulating 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, call a pro experienced in furnace installation Beckley and Mount Hope right away so they can take a look at your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally covered by the warranty. You should review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Calling a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to inspect 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will sustain.