A furnace is usually a background player at home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows through the ventilation. It usually does this via coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For this reason, do NOT turn on your heating if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire family sick. Call an HVAC professional immediately if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it might be a sign gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating around the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something could be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro well versed in furnace installation Northridge as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should vary depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. You’ll want to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not 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 most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to inspect your furnace for worn-out parts, clogs in the air filters and other likely 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 recommended some filters be swapped out every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will experience.