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What to Do About a Cracked Furnace Heat Exchanger

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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.  

The Dangers of Cracked Heat Exchangers

The dangers of a cracked heat exchanger are significant and should not be underestimated. The primary risk is the potential for carbon monoxide (CO) leakage. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause serious health issues or even death if inhaled in sufficient quantities. A cracked heat exchanger in a gas furnace can allow CO and other combustion gases to mix with the warm air circulating through your home, posing a serious risk to occupants.

Additionally, a cracked heat exchanger can reduce the efficiency of your furnace, leading to higher energy costs and uneven heating. It’s also a telltale sign of potential issues elsewhere in the furnace, as the forces that caused the heat exchanger to crack could be affecting other components. Regular inspections by a certified technician can help identify these risks early, ensuring the safety and efficiency of your home’s heating system.

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.

Can a Heat Exchanger Be Repaired?

When faced with a cracked heat exchanger, the question of whether it can be repaired is often the first concern. The answer isn’t straightforward and heavily depends on the extent of the damage and the specific circumstances surrounding the crack. A heat exchanger can be repaired in some instances, but this is often considered a temporary solution rather than a permanent fix.

Repairing a heat exchanger involves welding the cracks or applying heat-resistant epoxy. However, due to the critical role the heat exchanger plays in a furnace, ensuring the integrity and safety of the repair is paramount. It’s essential to consult with a certified HVAC technician who can assess the damage and determine the best course of action.

When Is Repair an Option?

A heat exchanger can be repaired under specific conditions. Minor cracks or damages that don’t significantly affect the overall structure and performance of the heat exchanger might be eligible for repair. However, it’s crucial to understand that even if a heat exchanger can be repaired, it doesn’t always mean it should be. The age of the furnace, the cost of repairs, and the potential for future failures should all be considered.

In cases where the furnace is relatively new, and the damage is minimal, repairing a cracked heat exchanger might be cost-effective. However, for older furnaces or when the damage is extensive, replacement often becomes the more sensible option, both financially and for long-term safety.

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.

Understanding the Furnace Replacement Process

When repair is no longer an option and a new furnace is needed, understanding the replacement process is essential. Furnace replacement involves choosing the right size and type of furnace for your home, considering factors like the size of your living space, the climate in your area, and your energy efficiency goals. High-efficiency furnaces, for example, can offer significant savings on energy bills but come with higher upfront costs.

Choosing a reputable and honest company like Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating for your furnace replacement is vital. An experienced service technician will provide a transparent assessment of your current furnace, offer options for replacement, and explain the installation process, including how long it will take and any necessary preparations you need to make.

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

Ensuring Your Furnace’s Safety and Efficiency

A cracked heat exchanger is a serious issue that requires immediate attention. Whether a heat exchanger can be repaired or must be replaced depends on various factors, including the extent of the damage and the age of your furnace. It’s crucial to consult with professionals who can provide a thorough inspection and offer expert advice on the best course of action.

For residents in need of furnace repair in Fresno, CA, or considering furnace replacement, Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating offers reliable, high-quality services. With a commitment to safety and efficiency, Lee’s Air ensures your furnace is in top condition, protecting your home from the dangers of a cracked heat exchanger and other potential issues.

Schedule Your Furnace Services Today!

Don’t wait for a minor issue to become a major problem. If you’re concerned about your furnace’s heat exchanger or simply want to ensure your heating system is ready for the winter, contact Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating today! Our team of certified professionals is ready to provide expert assistance, including professional furnace replacement in Sacramento. Experience the peace of mind that comes with knowing your furnace is in good hands.

Thomas Howard

Written by Thomas Howard

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