A furnace is often a background player in your home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, 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 in your furnace to the air that circulates inside the air ducts. It usually handles this with coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its important role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For that reason, do NOT use your heater if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole household ill. Call an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a strong chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members might start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting around the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication 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 pro experienced in furnace installation Winnipeg as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if required, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly protected by the warranty. It's a good idea to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly lower your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is via routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to examine 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 a good idea to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be changed 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will endure.