A furnace is usually a background player for your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s worthwhile to learn the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that moves inside the air ducts. It typically does this via coils or tubes that warm the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its key role, it’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be very dangerous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For this reason, don't ever use your heating if you suspect there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the whole 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 Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be a sign gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members could experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something might 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 pro experienced in furnace installation South Beloit and Belvidere right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. It's a good idea to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly reduce your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Calling a certified professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful 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 are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration parts like the heat exchanger will endure.