“You have a cracked heat exchanger.” It’s an unwelcome phrase, either to hear as a homeowner or have to report as a service technician. And, more often than not, the inspector will “red-tag” the furnace, directing you not to use it until the problem is resolved.
While a cracked heat exchanger may not sound so bad, just another part to replace or repair, it’s actually as close to a death knell on a furnace as it gets. And it’s very dangerous problem to have in an active heating unit. How does it happen and why is it so hard to fix?
How the Cracks Happen in a Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger transfers heat from the hot flue to the indoor air. The thin metal of the exchanger heats up every time the flames of the furnace are turned up, and the heat is then blown into the vents of your home. The constant heating and cooling of the heat exchanger means that thin metal is also constantly expanding and contracting. Eventually, over the course of the years, the metal will fatigue and split due to this process. And voila, you are the disgruntled owner of a cracked heat exchanger.
Real Dangers of a Cracked Heat Exchanger, the Silent Killer
If your furnace is operating with a cracked exchanger, CO poisoning is a very real threat. The crack can cause gases to leak, resulting in poorer combustion, high levels of CO, and soot buildup, which further blocks the venting of gases. All of these can fill your home with the deadly, odorless gas; this is why it’s often called “The Silent Killer”. Every year people go to sleep and never wake up because of CO poisoning, and much of it is preventable.
OK, So Why Not Just Patch It?
Repair is not an option. When a cracked Heat Exchanger is found, replacing the Heat Exchanger is the only option. This type of repair is often over $1000.00 and due to the age of the furnace, replacement of the furnace is generally the better option.
Preventative Maintenance Will Save You Big Time
Preventative HVAC maintenance can definitely prolong your heat exchanger’s life. With regular maintenance, a heat exchanger should last a good 20 years. (Make it to 25, and you should replace the unit regardless, cracks are on their way!) The most common causes of cracks are all addressed in maintenance, and include:
- Bad Air Flow—dirty filters and vents can cause the whole system to work harder
- Bad Gas Combustion—when burners aren’t working properly, the unit goes through more stress
- Condensation—Frequently accumulates in the heat exchanger, causing rust
Don't take chances. If you have a cracked heat exchanger, the writing is on the wall. Find yourself a highly-qualified, trusted HVAC contractor to replace your furnace. Either way, make sure you are scheduled for regular maintenance on your unit. It saves more than just money; your safety may be at stake!
Contact us today to request a heating unit inspection, if you have been told you have a cracked heat exchanger and want a 2nd opinion, or a consultation on a replacement furnace today.
Schedule a Service Call → (703) 783-9302