A furnace is usually a background player at home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to know the signs 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 transfers heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that moves throughout the ventilation. It typically handles this using coils or tubes that heat the air while acting as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed through your home.
For this reason, never run your heater if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the whole household sick. Contact an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it might be a sign gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you spot black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro well versed in furnace installation Lincoln right away so they can inspect your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly covered by the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly reduce your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they operate efficiently. Calling a certified 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 helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will endure.