Cracked Heat Exchanger: What That Means and What You Should Do Next

September 20, 2022

A furnace is usually a background player for your home, helping keep you warm in the cold winter months. It regularly doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.

One cause could be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can potentially be hazardous, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you are worried that is the problem.

What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?

A heat exchanger helps transition heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows throughout the ventilation. It usually does this with coils or tubes that heat up the air while serving as a barrier to keep the gasses created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.

Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

Thanks to its central role, it’s no surprise that a damaged heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can allow dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow throughout your home.

For that reason, never turn on your heating if you think it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make your entire family sick. Contact an HVAC professional immediately if you think your heating has a cracked heat exchanger that needs to be repaired.

Four Warning Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:

  • Furnace turns off: Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause your furnace to switch off.
  • Unusual Smells: If the air leaving your furnace has a powerful chemical odor, it may be evidence gas is leaking through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you notice symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is releasing carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If the alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
  • Soot: If you spot black sooty collecting around the exterior of your furnace, it’s an indication something could be seriously wrong.

What You Can Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked

If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a pro well versed in furnace installation Long Beach right away so they can take a look at your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs should fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates can roughly suggest $1,000 to $3,000.

However, the good news is that heat exchangers are regularly covered by the warranty. It's a good idea to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty may not cover the entire cost of repairs, it still may significantly reduce your bill.

How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home

One of the easiest ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is through consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they operate efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to examine your furnace for old parts, clogs in the air filters and other likely problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.

It’s also helpful to review your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be changed every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters aren't a part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of dragging air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work more vigorously to do its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration parts like the heat exchanger will endure.