Cracked Heat Exchanger: What You Need To Know

If your home has a gas furnace, then it relies on a number of major parts working properly in order to keep your home warm during the winter months. If even one of these parts fails, you could end up in the cold. One of the most important parts of a gas furnace is known as the heat exchanger. Unfortunately, when these parts fail, it's not always obvious--and things can actually get dangerous rather quickly. 

What is a Furnace Heat Exchanger?

Specifically, a heat exchanger is a component of a furnace that looks like a large, metal shield with a series of coils. Its primary purpose is to heat the air that passes through it using fuel. From there, the warm air is passed through your home's ductwork and makes its way through the individual air registers throughout your home.

What Are the Dangers of a Cracked Heat Exchanger? 

A heat exchanger in a furnace is exposed to a lot of changes in temperature, especially as it heats the air. Over time, this can cause the metal material to expand and contract, making it more prone to damage. Likewise, if moisture makes its way into the heat exchanger (due to high humidity or any other source), this can cause it to corrode over time.

Unfortunately, because heat exchangers use gas to heat air as it passes through, a cracked or otherwise damaged heat exchanger can be dangerous. This is because harmful gases, including carbon monoxide, can be released from cracks or holes in a damaged heat exchanger. In high enough concentrations, these gases can be poisonous and even fatal. In fact, according to the CDC, at least 420 people die in the United States each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning alone.

What to Do if You Have a Cracked Heat Exchanger

Typically, cracked heat exchangers are diagnosed during routine furnace inspections using a boroscope (a thin, flexible camera that can be passed through the exchanger itself). If damage to your heat exchanger is discovered, you should stop using your furnace right away. If your furnace is still relatively new, the part may be under warranty. However, if your furnace is already more than 10-15 years old, it will probably make more sense to replace the entire unit with a new and more efficient system.

Heat exchangers play an important role in keeping your home warm, so it's important to understand how these parts work and what to do if yours becomes damaged. With the right furnace repair technician on your side, you'll be in good hands.

Contact an HVAC company to learn more about furnace repairs.