A furnace is almost always a background player for your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It often won't be noticed until something goes wrong.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to know the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you believe that may be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that flows through the system. It generally accomplishes this using coils or tubes that heat up the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting 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 be very dangerous. A damaged heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For this reason, never run your furnace if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire household sick. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical smell, it could be a sign gasses are seeping 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 releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.
What to Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional well versed in furnace installation Tucson as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if required, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, 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 might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they run efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to examine 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 inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be replaced 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.