A furnace is often a background player at home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you believe that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that flows inside the ventilation. It typically does this using coils or tubes that heat up the air while acting as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A damaged heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For obvious reasons, do NOT run your heater if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire household sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it may be an indicator that gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in 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 sleepy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro experienced in furnace installation Northglenn right away so they can inspect your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly covered by the warranty. It's a good idea to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly shrink 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 via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Calling a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, clogs in the air filters and other likely 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 ideal some filters be changed 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.