A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, keeping you warm across the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that flows through the ventilation. It generally does this using coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep byproducts produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its important role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate across your home.
For this reason, do NOT run your furnace if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole household sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it may be a sign gas is slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you feel health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you spot black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional well versed in furnace installation Albuquerque right away so they can examine your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could 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 provide the best possible return on investment when they operate efficiently. Calling a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other likely problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be replaced 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will experience.