A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows inside the ventilation. It usually handles this using coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep byproducts produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its key role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A damaged heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For that reason, never use your heater if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the whole household sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it might be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members may struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional experienced in furnace installation Boynton Beach right away so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally covered by the warranty. You’ll want to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to check your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful 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 your entire furnace work harder to complete its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will endure.