A furnace is usually a background player at home, ensuring you're warm across the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.
One source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s worthwhile to know the evidence 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 transfers heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that moves throughout the ventilation. It usually handles this via coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning 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?
Given 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 – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed across your home.
For that reason, do NOT use your heater if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the whole family ill. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you are worried your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace turns off: A crack in your heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
- Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it may be evidence gasses are 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 recognize symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members could start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty buildup near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.
What to Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro experienced in furnace installation Omaha right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly protected by the warranty. You should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly shrink your bill.
How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they operate efficiently. Contacting a trained professional to check your furnace for worn-out parts, clogged filters and other likely problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.
It’s also helpful to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be replaced 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will sustain.