A furnace is almost always a background player at home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until something goes wrong.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that circulates throughout the system. It generally handles this with coils or tubes that heat up the air while acting 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?
Thanks to its central role, it isn't surprising that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For that reason, never turn on your heater if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the whole household ill. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to turn off.
- Odd Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it might be an indicator that gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members may 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 as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional experienced in furnace installation Front Royal as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if required, 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.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. You’ll want to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly reduce your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to examine your furnace for broken-down parts, clogged filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful 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 longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will endure.