A Cracked Heat Exchanger – Know the Signs

cracked heat exchanger blog image.

The heat exchanger is a conglomeration of tubes/coils in your furnace where the air is heated. A crack in your heat exchanger can be bad news for you, your furnace, and your home if you don’t act fast. 

This causes carbon to be burned, which can release nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a known neurotoxin, and contributes to thousands of hospital visits and hundreds of deaths per year. 

If you suspect your heat exchanger is cracked, play it safe and call Carbon Valley Heating & Air immediately for an inspection. 

Here are the signs to watch out for: 

Abnormal Smells

When your heat exchanger is defective, it may give off an eye-watering chemical scent. This could be the first thing you notice. The smell may be accompanied by other physical symptoms, such as headaches and nausea. This is an indicator of harmful chemicals entering your house. If this is the case, seek immediate help.

Water Around Your Furnace

While this may indicate a water condensation problem, another common cause for leaking is a cracked heat exchanger. In either case, a technician should check it out to prevent any further damage to your home. 

Black Soot Buildup

Soot is actually the accumulation of burnt carbon. If you find any on the inside of your furnace, it means something isn’t burning properly. In addition to a damaged heat exchanger, it could mean your burners aren’t adjusted correctly. Either fault can lead to carbon monoxide production, so this is a big red flag, regardless of the cause.

Wear and Tear Damage on Your Furnace

If the exterior of your furnace shows signs of decay, your heat exchanger is more likely to be cracked. This means that your furnace is getting too old to function properly, and may need to be replaced. 

Physical Ailments 

If any of the previous signs are accompanied by a housemate getting sick, you should be extremely cautious. Unexplained tiredness, confusion, eye/nose irritation, headaches, fever, or nausea are linked to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately, and have a technician search your home for the culprit.

What should I do if I think it might be cracked?

Step 1

If you have reason to believe your heat exchanger is damaged, the first thing you should do is turn off your furnace. Even if it seems to be running fine, it’s not worth risking your health and wellbeing. 

Step 2

The second step is to contact your technician. He or she will run a combustion gas analysis, which will give you a definitive answer as to whether or not it’s ruptured. 

If the technician finds that your heat exchanger is broken, it needs to be replaced. The replacement for heat exchangers is generally pretty steep, at $600-$1200. If your furnace has been operating for a decade or longer, you may want to replace the furnace as a whole. The condition of a furnace declines as it ages. If you opt to have the part replaced, you may end up regretting it if you have to replace it within the next couple of years.

The team at Carbon Valley Heating & Air has plenty of experience helping homeowners through this difficult issue. If you think you have a broken heat exchanger, call our Firestone, CO, office at 303.835.9802.

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