A furnace is usually a background player for your home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It often isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you suspect that may be 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 air ducts. It typically does this using coils or tubes that heat up the air while acting as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its important role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.
For this reason, never turn on your furnace if you suspect there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as this could make the entire household ill. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you believe your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be evidence gasses are 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 recognize poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members might struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something could be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional well versed in furnace installation Moline as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by 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 still may significantly lower your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to inspect your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other potential 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 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to complete its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.