A furnace is often a background player at home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One source might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves through the ventilation. It typically accomplishes this through coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep gas created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its key role, it’s no surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. A damaged heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For that reason, do NOT turn on your heater if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire family sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you notice poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Crystal and Twin Cities right away so they can inspect your system and, if required, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly protected by the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as 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 best ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they operate efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, clogs in the air filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to take a look at 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 aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.