A furnace is almost always a background player for your home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows throughout the air ducts. It generally accomplishes this through coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its key role, it’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow throughout your home.
For that reason, never run your heating if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire household sick. Call an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it may be a sign gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Cambridge as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if required, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ 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 included in the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might 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 minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is through consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they operate efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, clogged filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be replaced 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to complete its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more deterioration parts like the heat exchanger will experience.