A furnace is often a background player for your home, keeping you warm in the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should 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 inside your furnace to the air that circulates inside the ventilation. It usually does this with 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?
Because of its important role, it isn't surprising that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For obvious reasons, never run your heating if you suspect there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire household sick. Reach out to 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: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it could 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 recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you spot black sooty collecting around 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 worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional well versed in furnace installation Marshalltown as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often 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 still may significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they run efficiently. Calling a skilled professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.