Cracked Heat Exchanger - what you need to know

What You Need to Know About a Cracked Heat Exchanger

Your furnace is a complex system made up of many different components. The efficiency and performance of your heating system depends on the condition of each of these components. One component that you might not know much about is the heat exchanger.

A cracked heat exchanger will not only compromise your furnace’s ability to heat your home, it could create a potentially deadly environment inside your residence. Toxic gases can leak out of a cracked heat exchanger and into your home.

It’s critical to the safety of your family that you are able to identify a cracked heat exchanger quickly so that you can have the issue repaired by a knowledgeable HVAC professional.

THE ROLE OF THE HEAT EXCHANGER

The heat exchanger is a set of tubes or coils that are looped tightly inside your furnace. Natural gas, electricity, or whatever fuel is used to power your furnace enters the heat exchanger and combustion occurs. Air moving over the heat exchanger is heated, then blown through your home’s air ducts and distributed throughout the rest of your home.

Any cracks in a heat exchanger allow the gaseous byproducts of the combustion process to escape into your living space. One of these gaseous byproducts is carbon monoxide. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause dizziness and nausea. If you or a family member is exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide gas, you risk being rendered unconscious and losing your life.

Pay close attention to your heat exchanger if you want to make sure your home stays properly heated and carbon monoxide free this winter.

CAUSES OF CRACKS IN THE HEAT EXCHANGER

You can do your part to prevent cracks from forming in your heat exchanger by understanding the root causes of these cracks. Many heat exchangers crack simply because they are old.

The materials used in the construction of the heat exchanger will expand and contract numerous times over its lifespan. This expansion and contraction can weaken construction materials, eventually leading to the formation of a crack.

While you might not be able to prevent your heat exchanger from aging, you can ensure it has proper air flow and regular maintenance. Replace air filters often and schedule annual maintenance appointments with an experienced HVAC technician to eliminate premature cracks from forming.

SIGNS OF A CRACKED HEAT EXCHANGER

A trained HVAC professional can easily spot a damaged heat exchanger, but you might not have the knowledge needed to diagnose this type of problem yourself. There are some tell-tale signs you can watch for that indicate the integrity of your heat exchanger may be compromised.

Look for a buildup of soot inside your furnace housing. A cracked heat exchanger will prevent fuel from burning cleanly, which will result in soot residue accumulating on the inside of your furnace.

A foul odor can also be a sign of a cracked heat exchanger. The unpleasant scent is the result of formaldehyde being released through the crack during combustion. Contact a heating specialist immediately if you see evidence of soot or begin to smell an unpleasant odor, so that you can have your heat exchanger inspected and repaired quickly.

A cracked heat exchanger is one furnace repair that should never be postponed. You run the risks of having your furnace overheat and catch fire or your family being exposed to toxic carbon monoxide gas when you fail to identify and repair a crack in the heat exchanger quickly.

Professional repair is the only way to ensure the safety and efficiency of your furnace over time. Contact JW Heating and Air immediately if you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger.