A furnace is usually a background player at home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s worthwhile to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that may be 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 system. It typically accomplishes this through coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking 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 be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For this reason, do NOT run your heating if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to turn off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be evidence gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or household members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel sick, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro well versed in furnace installation Libertyville as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if necessary, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly shrink your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also a good idea to review 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 a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.