A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It regularly won't be noticed until something breaks down.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s worthwhile to know the symptoms 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 of your furnace to the air that moves inside the system. It typically does this via coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep the gasses formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its important role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For that reason, don't ever use your heater if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the whole household ill. Call an HVAC professional right away if you believe your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it might be evidence gas is 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 symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family 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 sick, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty accumulating near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Lexington right away so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not 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 minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to check your furnace for worn-out parts, clogs in the air filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will sustain.