A furnace is usually a background player at home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to learn the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you believe that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that moves inside the system. It typically accomplishes this via coils or tubes that warm the air while acting 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?
Because of its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate through your home.
For that reason, never run your heater if you suspect there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as this could make the whole family sick. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it may be evidence gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you feel symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members might 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 unusually tired, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a professional experienced in furnace installation Troy right away so they can examine your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should differ depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are often covered by the warranty. You should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not 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 regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they operate efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at 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 aren't connected to the heat exchanger itself, the strain of pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will sustain.