A furnace is almost always a background player at home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.
One source may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you believe that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves inside the ventilation. It typically handles 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?
Given its key role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For that reason, do NOT use your heating if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the whole family sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a powerful chemical smell, it could be evidence gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members may struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel sick, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.
What to Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro well versed in furnace installation Paxinos as soon as possible so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate 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 often protected by the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not 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 minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to inspect your furnace for worn-out parts, clogs in the air filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be swapped out 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.