A furnace is usually a background player in your home, helping keep you warm during the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that may 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 flows throughout the ventilation. It typically does this through coils or tubes that heat the air while acting as a barrier to keep gas created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from leaking out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its key role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.
For that reason, don't ever use your furnace if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the whole household sick. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you believe your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger may cause your furnace to switch off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it might be evidence gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members may experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel sick, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional experienced in furnace installation Bloomfield right away so they can examine your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by the warranty. You’ll want to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always 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 prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to review 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 are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will experience.