A furnace is often a background player in your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One source might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows inside the system. It generally does this via coils or tubes that warm the air while serving as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its important role, it’s no surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For this reason, do NOT run your heating if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire household ill. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical smell, it may be a sign gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members might struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If the alarm goes off or you feel sick, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional experienced in furnace installation Eastland right away so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly included in the warranty. It's a good idea to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly reduce your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be swapped out 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear components like the heat exchanger will endure.