A furnace is often a background player for your home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until something goes wrong.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to learn the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can 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 inside your furnace to the air that circulates throughout the system. It typically does this through coils or tubes that warm 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?
Given its important role, it’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For that reason, don't ever run your furnace if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it may be a sign gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you notice poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Tucker as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly lower your bill.
How to Avoid 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 offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other likely 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 encouraged some filters be swapped out 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 needs to run, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will sustain.