A furnace is usually a background player for your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until something breaks down.
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 evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can 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 through the air ducts. It usually accomplishes this with coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep byproducts formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its key role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate throughout your home.
For this reason, never use your heater if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family sick. Call an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it could be an indicator that gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members might start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something could be seriously wrong.
What to Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional well versed in furnace installation Des Moines right away so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly included in the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogs in the air filters and other common 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 encouraged some filters be swapped out 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 the entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain parts like the heat exchanger will endure.