A furnace is almost always a background player in your home, ensuring you're warm in the cold winter months. It often doesn’t get noticed until a malfunction appears.
One cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the evidence 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 inside your furnace to the air that circulates inside the ventilation. It usually handles this using coils or tubes that warm the air while functioning as a barrier to keep byproducts formed in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?
Given its important role, it isn't surprising that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. Cracks in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to be distributed throughout your home.
For that reason, don't ever use your heating if you believe you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as letting it run could make your entire family sick. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you believe your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.
Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:
- Furnace shuts off: Cracks in the heat exchanger may cause your furnace to turn off.
- Odd Smells: If the air escaping your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be evidence gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
- Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you feel poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members may start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, get out of the home right away and then call for help.
- Soot: If you notice black sooty accumulating around the exterior of your furnace, it’s more evidence something might be seriously wrong.
What You Can Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked
If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional with extensive experience in furnace installation Los Angeles as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if necessary, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally protected by the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly reduce your bill.
How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home
One of the best ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is through routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Calling a certified professional to inspect your furnace for broken-down parts, dirty filters and other likely 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 dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work longer to do its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more strain parts like the heat exchanger will experience.