A furnace is almost always a background player at home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until something breaks down.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to know the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows through the ventilation. It usually handles this through coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses formed 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 isn't surprising 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 throughout your home.
For that reason, don't ever run your heating if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as letting it run could make the whole household ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional immediately if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: Cracks in the heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical scent, it could be a sign gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often 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 in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or family members could struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Long Island as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if needed, start 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 regularly included in the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly lower your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to check your furnace for old parts, clogs in the air 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 recommended some filters be swapped out 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will sustain.