A furnace is often a background player in your home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you believe that may be 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 flows throughout the ventilation. It typically handles this using coils or tubes that warm the air while serving as a barrier to keep gas 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 shouldn't come as a surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can be very dangerous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For obvious reasons, don't ever run your heater if you suspect there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as this could make the entire family sick. Call an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a powerful chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro well versed in furnace installation Manassas right away so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often included in the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because 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 avoid problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to review 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 the entire furnace work longer to complete its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will experience.