A furnace is almost always a background player at home, ensuring you're warm during the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to 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 inside your furnace to the air that circulates throughout the system. It typically does this using coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas produced 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 permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate throughout your home.
For that reason, do NOT turn on your furnace if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire family ill. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it might be evidence gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you notice symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty accumulating near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional experienced in furnace installation Haines City right away so they can take a look at your system and, if required, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should differ depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. You’ll want to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly lower 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 via routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, clogs in the air filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to inspect 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 aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.