A furnace is almost always a background player at home, ensuring you're warm during the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One source may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that flows inside the system. It usually does this through coils or tubes that heat the air while acting as a barrier to keep byproducts formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its important role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks 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, don't ever turn on your furnace if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you think your heating 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 turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical smell, it might be evidence gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something could be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Jefferson City right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly protected by the warranty. You should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty might 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 best ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is via regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they operate efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to check your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be changed every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration parts like the heat exchanger will experience.