A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you are worried that is 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 throughout the ventilation. It usually handles this with coils or tubes that heat up the air while acting as a barrier to keep the gasses produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its important role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For this reason, do NOT run your furnace if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make your 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 Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to switch off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it could be a sign gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Chelan and Wenatchee as soon as possible so they can inspect your system and, if required, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often covered by the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly lower 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 via routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to check your furnace for worn-out parts, clogged filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will endure.