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

September 20, 2022

A furnace is usually 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 source could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you believe that is 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 flows throughout the ventilation. It typically accomplishes this using coils or tubes that heat the air while serving as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.

Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

Because of its central role, it isn't surprising that a broken heat exchanger can be very dangerous. Cracks in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – including carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.

For obvious reasons, do NOT turn on your furnace if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as this could make your entire family sick. Call an HVAC professional immediately if you think your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.

Four 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 leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical scent, it might be evidence gasses are slipping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which may smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm is triggered or you recognize poisoning symptoms: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling drowsy. If the alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, leave the home right away and then call for help.
  • Soot: If you see black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.

What You Can Do if Your Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked

If you suspect your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, hire a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Circleville as soon as possible so they can inspect your system and, if required, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.

Estimates aside, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. You’ll want to check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, because while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it could significantly reduce your bill.

How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home

One of the most convenient ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is with routine furnace maintenance. Furnaces work the best when they work efficiently. Contacting a certified professional to check your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other likely problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.

It’s also helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s encouraged some filters be swapped out 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 the entire furnace work harder to do its job. And the harder your furnace needs to run, the more wear and tear pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.