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 a malfunction appears.
One source may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s worthwhile to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you believe that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves throughout the air ducts. It typically does this with coils or tubes that heat up the air while functioning as a barrier to keep the gasses produced 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’s no surprise that a damaged 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 circulate through your home.
For obvious reasons, never run your furnace if you suspect it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole household ill. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it might be evidence gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Payson right away so they can take a look at your system and, if required, 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. It's a good idea to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly lower your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is through consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they run efficiently. Contacting a skilled professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be swapped out 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.