A furnace is often a background player for your home, helping keep you warm during 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 be a safety risk, so it’s important to learn the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you suspect that is 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 inside the ventilation. It generally handles this using coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning 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?
Because of its central role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For this reason, never turn on your heater if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire family sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it may be an indicator that gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro well versed in furnace installation Macon right away so they can inspect your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often included in the warranty. It's a good idea to review 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 most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Contacting a skilled professional to examine your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty 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 ideal some filters be swapped out 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.