Watch Out for Cracked Heat Exchangers in Your Gas Furnace
Most homes in our area rely on forced-air furnaces for heat. They’re inexpensive and effective, which makes them an excellent fit for our mild heating needs. If you have an older furnace in your home, you should have it inspected regularly for any potential problems which could affect the operation of the unit as well as potential safety concerns.
A cracked heat exchanger is a significant problem that may require a replacement furnace before you can safely heat your home again. Here’s a quick breakdown of what it means when this problem appears.
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
A heat exchanger is a relatively simple component in your furnace: just a shaped piece of metal placed between the burners and the air they need to heat. The burners are fueled by gas, which provides the heat to warm the air. But in and of themselves, they’re not very effective at transferring heat to the air. The metal of the heat exchanger does that much more effectively. The burners heat the metal and the heat then transfers quickly to the air, which can then be blown into your home with a fan. The shape of the heat exchanger also channels trace toxins in the gas out of the home safely.
What Happens When It Cracks?
Heat exchangers have no moving parts in most cases, and they’re built to last, which means they tend to do their job year in and year out without a problem. But with the extreme temperature changes that they go through every time you turn your heater on can cause a great deal of wear and tear, as can the months that the heat exchanger goes through sitting idly in the humidity and heat when your furnace is not needed. With a heat exchanger that can mean hairline cracks or similar damage may start to be seen when the system is being checked.
That can cause serious problems to your heating system. Not only will it drastically reduce the system’s ability to heat your home — forcing the system to run far longer than normal and adding strain to the other components in the heater — but it can cause those toxic gasses to leak into your home, which creates a health hazard. Modern furnaces usually have safety features that will shut your system off in the event of a leak, and if yours doesn’t, you should consider installing a carbon monoxide detector nearby to alert you to the danger. But even if the safety issues are covered, you’re going to need to replace the heat exchanger, or the whole system in many cases, before your home can be heated again.