A furnace is often a background player at home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It frequently isn't noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to know the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you suspect that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves throughout the system. It usually does this via coils or tubes that heat up the air while serving 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’s no surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For this reason, do NOT use your heater if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the entire household sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Strange Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical smell, it might be an indicator that gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members could start experiencing 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, leave the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Should Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional experienced in furnace installation Mount Pleasant right away so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will 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 regularly protected by the warranty. You should review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly lower your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to check your furnace for broken-down parts, clogged filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to inspect 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.