Cracked Heat Exchanger: What That Means and What to Do Next

September 20, 2022

A furnace is often a background player at home, keeping you warm during the cold winter months. It frequently doesn’t get noticed until something breaks down.

One source may be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It’s a potentially dangerous issue, so it’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you suspect that is the problem.

What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?

A heat exchanger transfers heat from the combustion chamber in your furnace to the air that flows inside the ventilation. It generally handles this with coils or tubes that warm the air while acting as a barrier to keep gas produced in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from escaping out into your home.

Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

Because of its central role, it isn't surprising that a cracked heat exchanger can be hazardous. A crack in the heat exchanger can permit dangerous gasses – such as carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow through your home.

For this reason, do NOT run your heating if you believe it has a cracked heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire household ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional as soon as possible if you are worried your heater has a cracked heat exchanger that should be repaired.

Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:

  • Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to shut off.
  • Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has a strong chemical smell, it may be evidence gasses are seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These gasses, which will often smell like formaldehyde, are a significant warning sign.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you notice symptoms of poisoning: If a cracked heat exchanger is emitting carbon monoxide into your home, your carbon monoxide alarm should go off or household members might struggle with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If your alarm goes off or you feel unusually tired, exit the home as soon as you can and then call for help.
  • Soot: If you notice black sooty accumulating near the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something could be seriously wrong.

What You Can Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked

If you believe your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, contact a professional well versed in furnace installation Abilene right away so they can inspect your system and, if needed, perform a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will differ depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.

Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often included in the warranty. You should confirm the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always 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 most convenient ways to minimize the risk of problems in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they run efficiently. Hiring a trained professional to inspect your furnace for worn-out parts, dirty filters and other common problems can help you avoid getting a big bill later on.

It’s also a good idea to inspect your furnace filters every few months – it’s recommended some filters be changed every 90 days or sooner if they are dirty or grimy. While the filters are not part of the heat exchanger itself, the strain of drawing air through a clogged filter makes your entire furnace work harder to complete its job. And the harder your furnace works, the more deterioration pieces like the heat exchanger will experience.

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