A furnace is often a background player at home, keeping you warm in the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should 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 in your furnace to the air that circulates through the air ducts. It usually does this via coils or tubes that warm the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its important role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate across your home.
For obvious reasons, do NOT turn on your heater if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as this could make your entire household ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it might be a sign gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may 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 in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members may start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something could be seriously wrong.
What to Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Michigan City right away so they can inspect your system and, if required, perform 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 covered by the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as 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 easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful 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 are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more strain pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.