A furnace is often a background player in your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that moves throughout the air ducts. It usually accomplishes this through coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep the gasses formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its important role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a damaged 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 across your home.
For that reason, don't ever turn on your heater if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire family ill. Contact an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members may start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel unwell, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something could be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional well versed in furnace installation Georgetown right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since 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 most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Contacting a skilled professional to check your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other likely problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be replaced 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will endure.