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 something breaks down.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the evidence 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 move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that circulates throughout the system. It typically accomplishes this through coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate across your home.
For that reason, do NOT turn on your heater if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire household sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you think your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it may be evidence gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you spot black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something could be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro experienced in furnace installation Newton as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often vary depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly protected by the warranty. It's a good idea to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always 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 best ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is via regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, clogged filters and other potential 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 encouraged 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 your entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.