A furnace is often a background player at home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile 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 helps move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that flows inside the air ducts. It typically handles 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?
Thanks to its central role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For that reason, do NOT run your heater if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as this could make your entire household ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical odor, it might be a sign gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members may struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If the alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What You Should 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 Columbus right away so they can inspect your system and, if required, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in 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 still may significantly shrink 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 via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogs in the air filters and other common problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be changed 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will sustain.