A furnace is usually a background player in your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to learn the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you are worried 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 flows through the system. It generally does this via coils or tubes that heat up the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A damaged heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For this reason, don't ever turn on your furnace if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the whole household ill. Contact an HVAC professional immediately 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 crack in your heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or family members may experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your 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 find black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro experienced in furnace installation Ballwin and St. Charles as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if necessary, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should vary depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by 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 lower 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 routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Contacting a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, clogged filters and other common 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 recommended some filters be swapped out every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't connected to the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will endure.