Every winter we rely on our home’s furnace to keep us warm. For most of us, we may not often think about that furnace on a daily basis–we are so accustomed to the heat it provides. Your home’s furnace is actually a pretty complex system, and one of its most important elements is the heat exchanger.
Located within the heating system, the heat exchanger is essentially the part that takes the heat generated by combustion and makes that air safe for us to breathe. The initial air that is heated in the combustion chamber is filled with gases that are unhealthy for us and could even contain Carbon Monoxide. That is why the heat exchanger is so important–it ensures that we are breathing safe, clean air.
Unfortunately, over time or due to improper maintenance and use, the heat exchanger can become cracked. This means that all of those harmful gases it was keeping out of our breathing air could leak into our home. This is not a problem that you should expect to have on a regular basis, but because of the potential dangers it is important to be aware of any warning signs.
Furnaces typically last around 14-20 years. After that time, even normal use of the furnace can contribute to regular wear and tear leaving the metal of the heat exchanger more susceptible to cracks. If your home has an older furnace, we recommend either replacing it or making sure to keep a close eye on any type of problem or irregularities that you notice.
First of all, just because the furnace turns off unexpectedly does NOT mean that your heat exchanger is cracked. However, it is a possibility. Therefore, if you lose heat, we recommend having a professional come and take a look at your unit to ensure there is nothing major going on. *Also, please note, a cracked heat exchanger will not always cause the furnace to shut off so if you suspect anything, please call right away.
Have you noticed soot on and around your furnace? That is a sign of a problem. Contact your local HVAC company to come and investigate.
If the heat exchanger is cracked and leaking gases, you may begin to smell them. While carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, the other gases, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, that could be leaking, are not.
Your home should have a carbon monoxide detector installed. These are fairly inexpensive and can often be found at your local hardware store, or your heating and cooling company may also offer them. If you CO detector(s) begin to alarm, the first thing is for you and your family to leave the house. Next, you will want to investigate where the carbon monoxide could be coming from. While a cracked heat exchanger may not be the only potential culprit, it is definitely a suspect that should be examined.
One of the best and easiest ways to prevent a cracked heat exchanger is by having your furnace inspected on an annual basis. Not only will the heat exchanger be examined at that point, but qualified technicians will also look for other potential problems or irregularities that could lead to a crack or other home heating issues.
Are you looking to learn more about your home’s heating and cooling systems? Contact us at Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical!