A furnace is usually a background player at home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something goes wrong.
One 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 should do if you believe that is the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that circulates through the air ducts. It generally accomplishes this via coils or tubes that heat up the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Thanks to its important role, it isn't surprising that a damaged heat exchanger can pose a risk. A damaged heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For that reason, do NOT run your heating if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make the entire family sick. Contact an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has a powerful chemical smell, it could be an indicator that gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If an alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What to Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional experienced in furnace installation Omaha as soon as possible so they can inspect your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly included in the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly reduce your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogged filters and other potential problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be swapped out every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't connected to the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.