A furnace is usually a background player for your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with 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 move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that flows inside the system. It typically does this via coils or tubes that warm the air while functioning as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its central role, it’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be very dangerous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed through your home.
For that reason, never run your heating if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire family sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it could be an indicator that gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Greensburg as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly lower your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will sustain.