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

September 20, 2022

A furnace is usually a background player in your home, keeping you warm in the cold winter months. It regularly isn't noticed until something breaks down.

One root cause might be that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger. It can be a safety risk, so it’s important to know the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger and what you should do if you believe that may be the problem.

What Is a Heat Exchanger in a Furnace?

A heat exchanger helps move heat from the combustion chamber of your furnace to the air that moves inside the ventilation. It usually accomplishes this via coils or tubes that heat the air while functioning as a barrier to keep gas created in the combustion chamber, called flue gasses, from getting out into your home.

Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

Thanks to its key role, it isn't surprising that a cracked heat exchanger can pose a risk. A crack in the heat exchanger can enable dangerous gasses – like carbon monoxide, which can be lethal – to flow across your home.

For that reason, do NOT run your heater if you think there's a crack in the heat exchanger, as doing so could make the entire household ill. Reach out to an HVAC professional right away if you are worried your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger that needs repair.

Four Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger:

  • Furnace switches off: A cracked heat exchanger can cause your furnace to switch off.
  • Odd Smells: If the air coming out of your furnace has an intense chemical odor, it might be an indicator that gas is seeping through cracks in your heat exchanger. These byproducts, which can smell like formaldehyde, are a major warning sign.
  • Carbon monoxide alarm initiates or you recognize health problems: If a cracked heat exchanger is relieving carbon monoxide in your home, your carbon monoxide alarm could go off or household members might experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Complications include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or feeling tired. If an alarm goes off or you feel unwell, exit the home immediately and then call for help.
  • Soot: If you see black sooty accumulating on the exterior of your furnace, it’s another sign something might be seriously wrong.

What You Should Do if a Furnace Heat Exchanger is Cracked

If you worry your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, call a pro with extensive experience in furnace installation Neptune City as soon as possible so they can examine your system and, if needed, start a furnace heat exchanger replacement. Costs will vary depending on the situation, but estimates often hover around $1,000 to $3,000.

Fortunately, the good news is that heat exchangers are often protected by the warranty. You should check the warranty paperwork on your furnace, since while the warranty won't always cover the entire cost of repairs, it can significantly lower your bill.

How to Avoid a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Home

One of the most convenient ways to avoid problems in your furnace overall is via consistent furnace maintenance. Furnaces provide the best possible return on investment when they work efficiently. Calling a certified professional to inspect your furnace for old parts, dirty filters and other likely 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 ideal some filters be swapped out 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 more vigorously to accomplish its job. And the harder your furnace has to work, the more deterioration components like the heat exchanger will endure.