A furnace is often a background player in your home, keeping you warm across the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you believe that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that moves inside the system. It typically does this through coils or tubes that heat up the air while functioning as a barrier to keep the gasses formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it isn't surprising that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate through your home.
For obvious reasons, never turn on your furnace if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire family sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it may be an indicator that gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something could be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional well versed in furnace installation Auburn right away so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate 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. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly shrink your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is with regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Calling a trained professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at 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 aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.