Cracked Heat Exchanger: What It Means and What You can Do Next

September 20, 2022

A furnace is usually a background player for your home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It regularly won't be noticed until something goes wrong.

One root cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s critical to learn the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you can do if you believe that may 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 moves throughout the air ducts. It usually does this with coils or tubes that heat the air while serving 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 key role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to circulate through your home.

For this reason, never run your heater if you suspect you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire family sick. Call an HVAC professional right away if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.

Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:

  • Furnace turns off: A cracked heat exchanger could cause your furnace to shut off.
  • Strange Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical scent, it may be evidence gasses are leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a common warning sign.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you notice health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off or family members may struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If your alarm goes off or you feel unwell, leave the home right away and then call for help.
  • Soot: If you spot black sooty collecting around the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something could be seriously wrong.

What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked

If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro experienced in furnace installation Huntingburg as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should 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 included in the warranty. You’ll want to review the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty might not cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly reduce your bill.

How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home

One of the most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is with regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they work efficiently. Calling a skilled professional to inspect your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other potential 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 ideal some filters be replaced every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of dragging air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more strain pieces like the heat exchanger will endure.