A furnace is usually a background player at home, keeping you warm in the cold winter months. It often won't be noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that might 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 moves inside the ventilation. It typically accomplishes this via coils or tubes that heat up the air while acting as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its key role, it’s no surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate across your home.
For that reason, do NOT turn on your heater if you suspect it has a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the entire household sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Odd Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it may be evidence gas is slipping 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 notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting around the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something could be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation West Columbia as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally covered by the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always 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 minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is through consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Contacting a skilled professional to check your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be replaced 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 longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will endure.