A furnace is often a background player for your home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause might 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 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 of your furnace to the air that moves inside the ventilation. It typically accomplishes this with coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep the gasses produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For obvious reasons, do NOT turn on your furnace if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire household sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical smell, it could be an indicator that gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members may start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see 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 worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro experienced in furnace installation West Jefferson right away so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often vary depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often covered by the warranty. You should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly lower 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 with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Calling a certified professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at 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 are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.