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

September 20, 2022

A furnace is usually a background player at home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently won't be noticed until a malfunction appears.

One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s critical to learn the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what to do if you suspect that is the problem.

What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?

A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber inside your furnace to the air that circulates through the air ducts. It generally does this with coils or tubes that heat the air while acting as a barrier to keep byproducts 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 shouldn't come as a surprise that a cracked heat exchanger can be very dangerous. A damaged heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.

For this reason, do NOT use your furnace if you think you're dealing with a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire family ill. Call an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.

Four Symptoms of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:

  • Furnace shuts off: Cracks in the heat exchanger may cause your furnace to shut off.
  • Unusual Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it could be evidence gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, 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 relieving carbon monoxide inside your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members might start experiencing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling sleepy. If an alarm goes off or you feel sick, get out of the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
  • Soot: If you see black sooty buildup around the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something may be seriously wrong.

What You Should Do if the Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked

If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro well versed in furnace installation Middletown as soon as possible so they can take a look at your system and, if required, handle a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs often fluctuate depending on the situation, but estimates run in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000.

However, the good news is that heat exchangers are generally covered by the warranty. You’ll want to confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, as while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly reduce your bill.

How to Prevent a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home

One of the most convenient ways to prevent a problem in your furnace overall is with regular furnace maintenance. Furnaces offer the most benefits when they run efficiently. Hiring a skilled professional to examine your furnace for broken-down parts, clogs in the air filters and other likely problems can keep you from getting a big bill later on.

It’s also a good idea to take a look at your furnace filters every few months – it’s ideal some filters be replaced 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 drawing air through a clogged filter makes the entire furnace work harder to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration parts like the heat exchanger will endure.