A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, helping keep 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 potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that circulates inside the system. It usually accomplishes this via coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it’s no surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For obvious reasons, do NOT run your furnace if you suspect there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire household sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it may be a sign gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting on 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 believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional experienced in furnace installation Oxford right away so they can take a look at your system and, if necessary, start 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 should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may 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 work the best when they work efficiently. Calling a certified professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, clogged filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be changed 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.