A furnace is usually a background player in your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It regularly won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect 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 moves through the system. It generally does this with coils or tubes that warm the air while acting 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 shouldn't come as a surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate through your home.
For this reason, don't ever use your heater if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire household sick. Call an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it might 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 goes off or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members may experience 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, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something could be seriously wrong.
What to Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro well versed in furnace installation Norco and St. Charles Parish as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often included in the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is via regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, clogged 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 aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.