Not every furnace problem causes the furnace to stop generating heat. For this reason, some heating issues can go overlooked for quite a while before the homeowner realizes they need to call a heating repair contractor. This can be dangerous, especially in the case of a cracked heat exchanger. This is a problem that can easily go undetected, but it is one you really do want to detect and have repaired. Learn the basics in the article so you can protect yourself and pursue repairs as needed.
What is the heat exchanger, and what does it do for the furnace?
Your furnace burns oil, propane, or natural gas to generate heat. But the flame is encased in a metal component known as a heat exchanger. The heat from the fire heats up the heat exchanger, and the heat exchanger heats up the air that blows past it. That warm air is blown out through your home. To put it simply, the heat exchanger separates the flame from the air that gets blown into your home.
Why is a cracked heat exchanger such a concern?
If there is a crack in your heat exchanger, this means there is no longer an impermeable barrier between the flame and the circulated air. As such, any gasses produced as the fuel burns can get blown out into your home. These are not good gasses to breathe in. Carbon monoxide is one gas generated when a flame burns, and it can cause nausea, confusion, and even death. You never want to ignore a cracked heat exchanger because of this risk.
What are the signs of a cracked heat exchanger?
Your carbon monoxide alarm going off is one sign of a possible cracked heat exchanger. You may also notice a strange odor, which some homeowners compare to that of formaldehyde. Soot accumulating anywhere in or on the furnace is another sure sign of a cracked heat exchanger. If you notice any or all of these signs, call an HVAC contractor for repairs ASAP.
What repairs are needed if your heat exchanger is cracked?
Cracked heat exchangers cannot really be repaired, so if your HVAC contractor confirms that your heat exchanger is, indeed cracked, they will likely recommend replacing the entire heat exchanger. If your furnace is still under warranty, this repair will almost certainly be covered. If your furnace is older, your HVAC contractor can help you weigh the cost of replacing the heat exchanger against the cost of just replacing the older furnace outright.
If you think you may have a cracked heat exchanger, call a local residential furnace repair company sooner rather than later. Just because your furnace is still producing heat does not mean everything is okay.