A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, keeping you warm across the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get 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 critical to learn 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 in your furnace to the air that circulates inside the system. It generally handles this using coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas created 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’s no surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate throughout your home.
For this reason, do NOT turn on your furnace if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire household ill. Contact an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you believe your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
- Unusual Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it may be a sign gasses are seeping 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 feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members may start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
- Soot: If you find black sooty collecting near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.
What to Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a professional experienced in furnace installation Naples right away so they can examine your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
However, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally included in the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly shrink your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the easiest ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Calling a certified 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 a good idea to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be changed 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 your entire furnace work harder to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more wear and tear parts like the heat exchanger will endure.