A furnace is almost always a background player for your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s critical to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows through the air ducts. It typically handles this using coils or tubes that warm the air while serving as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be hazardous. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed through your home.
For obvious reasons, never turn on your heating if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire family sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it might be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional well versed in furnace installation West Jefferson right away so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always 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 easiest ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to examine your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain pieces like the heat exchanger will endure.