A furnace is often a background player in your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until something goes wrong.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s critical to learn the symptoms 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 helps move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that circulates through the air ducts. It generally does this through coils or tubes that heat the air while acting as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For this reason, never run your furnace if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire household sick. Call an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical smell, it could be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you notice symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro experienced in furnace installation Phoenix right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often vary depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are often covered by the warranty. It's a good idea to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly shrink your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they operate efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more strain components like the heat exchanger will sustain.