A furnace is usually a background player in your home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to learn the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you believe that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows inside the system. It usually does this with coils or tubes that warm the air while functioning as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be hazardous. A damaged heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate across your home.
For this reason, never use your heater if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family ill. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it may be a sign gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If an 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 see black sooty buildup on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might 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 Kankakee right away so they can examine your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate 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 review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they operate efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be changed every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't connected to the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.