The Serious Problem of a Cracked Heat Exchanger


Old gas furnace in basement with vent, ductwork and heat exchanger
By Muggle99102, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Facts About Heat Exchangers

Heat exchangers are the biggest component of any furnace assembly. They are devices designed to take heat and move it from once spot to another. During the process of natural gas burning in a furnace, exhaust is created, which then must travel through this exchanger. At that point, the air that is moving over the area surrounding the exchanger will also be warmed.

How Serious is a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

Having a cracked heat exchanger may permit gas to leave the heat-exchanger, thus sending carbon monoxide into the home itself. If a crack is detected, the furnace should not be used until a proper repair is made. Professional technicians often take steps to prevent the furnace from being operated even by the homeowner, just for the sake of safety.

How Dangerous Is the Risk of Poisoning by Carbon Monoxide?

Though any cracked heat exchanger poses a risk of contamination by carbon monoxide, not every crack will result in leakage of this deadly gas. The amount of leakage can also vary, but the risk for a dangerous carbon monoxide leak is always present whenever there is a crack.

What Makes A Heat Exchanger Crack?

A typical cause of a cracked heat exchanger is simply that your furnace is overheating. When a furnace lacks appropriate airflow, it is possible for the exchanger to reach intolerably high temperatures that cause it to crack due to ongoing contraction and expansion of materials. Airflow can become restricted when the air filter is allowed to become dirty. This is another great reason why you should make sure you have a clean filter at all times. Replacing your air filter costs little money and is a great safeguard against your heat exchanger becoming damaged. There are other possible causes to cause a crack, including having a furnace that is not the correct size or having the wrong ductwork installed.

What Are the Signs That My Heat Exchanger is Cracked?

A great way to know if your exchanger is indeed cracked is to visually inspect it as part of your regular seasonal heating maintenance that should be performed every fall. This is not the only way to detect a crack. You can also look for the following signs:

* A build up of noticeable soot on the furnace interior

* Water pooling on the floor that is not due to normal condensation

* Corrosion or cracking on other furnace components

Of course, it is also possible to have a crack that can’t actually be seen. There are times when a crack in a heat exchanger is impossible to spot with the naked eye. We have professional tools designed to find these small cracks that would otherwise go unnoticed.

cracked heat exchanger on a furnaceThe team at Standard Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning utilizes a combustion analysis tool to examine for heating unit cracking. This tool also generates carbon monoxide and oxygen readings that aid in leak detection. We can see if any major concerns exist so that repairs can be made when needed and unnecessary repairs can be avoided.

Call us at (785) 776-5012 and a skilled professional will come check your furnace for cracks and other issues. We service homes and businesses in Manhattan and surrounding Kansas towns including Wamego and Junction City.

Is a Repair Always Needed?

The short answer is yes. Cracked heat exchangers create a very real risk of fatal carbon monoxide contamination. The solution is to have the exchanger replaced, perhaps even the whole furnace. The latter is often true when the furnace itself is a decade old or older.

How Expensive is it to Fix a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

It generally costs anywhere between $600-$1200 to replace a heat exchanger. Given the significant expense involved, you may find it worth it to replace the full furnace system. The technicians at Standard Plumbing, Heating and Air are skilled and experienced in both repair and replacement options and can offer the advice you need to make an informed decision.

Unscrupulous Heating & Air Companies

It is not terribly uncommon for a handyman or service company to tell a homeowner that their heat exchanger is cracked when that isn’t the case. These people play on the fears that homeowners have of carbon monoxide poisoning so that they will pay the cost to replace either the exchanger itself or the whole furnace. If someone tries to convince you that your exchanger is cracked, it makes good sense to heed their warning. But you may also want to seek out a second opinion so that costly repairs are not made when they’re not actually needed. Give us a call at (785) 776-5012, and we will gladly send one of our experienced heating and cooling professionals to your home to determine the true status of your unit.

Steering Clear of Heat Exchanger Damage

Heat exchangers can crack for many reasons, including a lack of sufficient airflow. Simple routine maintenance and replacement of air filters can prevent a great deal of this risk. Seasonal furnace maintenance is an easy way to gain real peace of mind when it comes to the fear of a damaged heat exchanger or other furnace part. While it is sometimes possible for homeowners to assess cracks in their heat exchangers through a quick visual inspection, there are other times when a trained HVAC professional is required, along with high-tech tools and insight, to find the hidden cracks.

One way you can make sure your system is running smoothly and efficiently all year long is by signing up for our Standard Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning VIP Preventative program. Membership benefits include free air filter installation or cleaning of a reusable one, checking the pilot light, checking safety controls and inspecting the heat exchanger for rust, cracks and leaks.

Graphic image promoting Standard’s VIP maintenance program for seasonal inspections on furnaces

When it comes to ensuring that your home is not only warm during our cold Kansas winters, but also entirely safe for friends, family and pets alike, there is no substitute for the expertise a team of heating and air professionals bring to the table. By contacting our highly trained technicians, you will know that you have taken all possible steps to maintain the integrity of what is one your home’s most important systems. Call us today to schedule a prompt, professional examination of your furnace.

Call us at (785) 776-5012