A furnace is often a background player for your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It often won't be noticed until something breaks down.
One source 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 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 transfers heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that flows throughout the ventilation. It typically handles 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 damaged heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate across your home.
For obvious reasons, don't ever run your heater 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 Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it could be a sign gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Erie as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if required, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly reduce your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Hiring a certified professional to check your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to review 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 aren't a part of 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 has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will endure.