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What to Do About a Cracked Furnace Heat Exchanger

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A furnace's heat exchanger

Your furnace is an essential part of your home. You and your family rely on your furnace to keep your home warm during the cooler months. One of the crucial pieces of the furnace is the heat exchanger. 

If your furnace’s heat exchanger is cracked, your furnace is at risk of breaking down. If not properly repaired, this issue could mean more than just a broken furnace; you could also be putting your family at risk. 

Keep reading to learn about your furnace’s heat exchanger, how to tell if it’s cracked, and what you should do. 

What is a Furnace Heat Exchanger? 

If your home has a furnace, its heat exchanger is something you need to be aware of. Every furnace has a heat exchanger. Whether your furnace is gas or electric, the heat exchanger stops a harmful mix of chemicals from entering your home. 

To heat your home, your furnace has a combustion chamber where a mixture of gas and fumes are created, these are known as flue gases. To stop this harmful mixture from blowing through your home’s ductwork, the furnace’s heat exchanger acts as a shield that absorbs the heat. The heat from the exchanger then heats the breathable air on the other side. 

Not only does your furnace’s heat exchanger help to keep your home warm, but it also keeps your family safe from harmful air. The problem that can arise with your heat exchanger is cracks. Having cracks in the heat exchanger allows for this harmful air to seep into your home.  

5 signs that tell you your heat exchanger is cracked

How to Tell if Your Heat Exchanger is Cracked 

As the heat exchanger in your furnace is constantly being heated, it will regularly expand and contract. Over time, your heat exchanger will be prone to stress cracks. Normally, your heat exchanger should last between 10 to 20 years. 

When these cracks occur, it’s common for your furnace to do the following: 

  • Start producing weird smells 
  • Rust on the outside 
  • A buildup of soot inside the heat exchanger

If you have any questions about your furnace or if you’re dealing with cracks, it’s best to call a professional for repair immediately.

To ensure your furnace is receiving the care it needs, regularly look it over. If other parts of the furnace are beginning to look worn out or its flame has started to change in color, it’s possible your heat exchanger could have cracks.  

A plumber bent down fixing a gas furnace

Preventing Heat Exchanger Cracks 

While it’s not impossible to completely stop heat exchanger cracks, they can be prevented and identified early, before they’re able to cause serious damage. 

Professional Installation 

If not installed properly, your furnace’s heat exchanger could have been damaged when first installed. To avoid this, it’s best to select a professional to install your furnace. During our installation process, our team of professionals takes pride in the care and attention they provide for every installation. 

Furnace Maintenance

To ensure the safety of your family, regular maintenance should be done on your furnace. It’s best to have an HVAC technician visit your home every fall to check its condition (before you start using your furnace again). 

During an inspection, we can determine if there are any cracks in the heat exchanger and recommend an effective solution. 

What to Do About a Cracked Heat Exchanger 

Once you believe your furnace’s heat exchanger is cracked, call a professional as soon as possible. When a professional arrives for repair, they will inspect the furnace and determine if the issue is indeed your heat exchanger. An HVAC technician can do this by using a combustion gas analyzer to see if any gas is escaping. 

If your furnace’s heat exchanger is cracked, you have two options. First, the heat exchanger can be replaced. If you have a recently new furnace, this option is preferred, as it can save you money. However, if your furnace is older, it might be best to opt for a new furnace altogether. Typically, furnaces last for 15 to 20 years. If your furnace is around the 15-year mark, a new unit is more cost-effective for your home.

When an HVAC technician determines that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, they will recommend what option is best for you and your home. 

Maintaining Your Furnace

You know that to be comfortable in your home, you need your furnace to be doing its job. As the heat exchanger is a key part of the furnace, it must be taken care of. Having a professional stop by for a yearly furnace tune-up is the best way to rest assured your heat exchanger isn’t cracked and leaking harmful air into your home.  

If you think your furnace heat exchanger is cracked or you’re ready for your yearly tune-up, give our team a call

Written by Thomas Howard

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