A furnace is often a background player for your home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to learn the symptoms 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 of your furnace to the air that flows inside the ventilation. It typically handles this with coils or tubes that heat the air while acting as a barrier to keep gas created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its important role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can be very dangerous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed through your home.
For obvious reasons, never use your heater if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire household sick. Call an HVAC professional right away if you think your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it may be evidence gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members might start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro experienced in furnace installation Alliance right away so they can inspect your system and, if required, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly lower your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is via regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Calling a skilled professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other likely problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended 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 your entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will endure.