A furnace is usually a background player at home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One source might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to learn the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that might be 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 circulates through the air ducts. It typically handles this via coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep byproducts formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its key role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For this reason, never turn on your furnace if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the whole household sick. Call an HVAC professional immediately if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it could be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may 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 could go off or family members might start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel sick, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting around the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional well versed in furnace installation Greater Richmond right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally covered by the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly lower your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they operate efficiently. Calling a certified professional to examine 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 a good idea to inspect 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 are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more strain parts like the heat exchanger will experience.