A furnace is often a background player at home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One source might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves throughout the air ducts. It usually does this with coils or tubes that warm 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?
Because of its important role, it’s no 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 across your home.
For that reason, do NOT turn on your heating if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as this could make the entire family ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: Cracks in the heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it could be evidence gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often 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 may go off or household members might start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty buildup on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Kearney as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are often included in the warranty. It's a good idea to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to examine your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be changed 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 dragging 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 strain parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.