A furnace is often a background player for your home, helping keep you warm across the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you are worried that might be the problem.
What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?
A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that circulates inside the ventilation. It generally does this using coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep byproducts created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Because of its key role, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can pose a risk. A damaged heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate throughout your home.
For that reason, never run your furnace if you believe there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire family ill. Call an HVAC professional immediately if you think your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace switches off: A crack in your heat exchanger can cause your furnace to turn off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be evidence gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home immediately and then call for help.
- Soot: If you see black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro experienced in furnace installation Fort Lauderdale as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if necessary, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often vary depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.
However, 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 won't always 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 easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to check your furnace for worn-out parts, clogs in the air filters and other potential problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.
It’s also beneficial to take a look at 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 pulling air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain pieces like the heat exchanger will sustain.