A Cracked Heat Exchanger is Dangerous

Posted by Ohio Heating

Oct 26, 2021 8:53:00 AM

Many homes in Central Ohio use a natural gas furnace to keep it warm and cozy. A gas furnace not only produces a large amount of heat, but it does so at a lower cost than electric furnaces ( since natural gas costs less than electricity per unit).   furnace repair new 2021

A well-maintained heating system helps homeowners avoid dangerous situations. Current furnace systems are built with your safety in mind, and have special features to keep dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide from seeping into your home. 

A cracked heat exchanger is a huge problem. If it is your heat exchanger is damaged, you cannot run your furnace, even though it seems to be running fine. The gases will continue to leak into your home's air and can be very dangerous.

What Is a Heat Exchanger?

The heat exchanger enables your furnace to heat the air that travels through its ventilation system. When the burners of the furnace ignite, they generate hot combustion gas, which is collected inside the heat exchanger. This is a metal chamber or series of chambers that typically resemble a clam-shell.

The hot combustion gas within the exchanger heats up the metal walls, and the blower fan of the furnace comes on and sends air around the exchanger, where it picks up heat from the furnace wall, then continues into the ductwork. This process uses combustion gas to heat the air without the gas ever coming into contact with that air.

Once the heating process is over, the combustion byproducts in the heat exchanger are vented out of the system through a flue, in order to release the gas harmlessly into the outdoor air.

Why Do Heat Exchangers Crack?

Expansion and contraction of the metal as it heats and cools causes stress that will eventually cause a crack to form. Corrosion, due to the reaction between the combustion gas and metal can also strain the metal to the point where it cracks.

Overheating causes many premature heat exchanger cracks. When a furnace cannot get enough airflow, the heat exchanger overheats and suffers excess stress from expansion and contraction.

These cracks are typically small and hard to detect. But when the exchanger expands with heat, the cracks open up and let some of the gases escape sending toxic gas into your home. 

Warning Signs

Examine the furnace for any corrosion or cracks on other components. This is also the sign of a problem.

Strange smells can indicate a malfunctioning heat exchanger. A strong and unpleasant odor similar to formaldehyde can cause headaches as well as other physical symptoms. If you smell anything similar to formaldehyde call a technician at once.

Listen for a clicking sound coming from the furnace as soon as the blower shuts off. This should always be investigated by a pro.

Unfortunately, heat exchangers cannot be repaired. When a heat exchanger cracks or rusts through it must be replaced. Because the heat exchanger is at the center of the furnace, nearly the whole furnace must be disassembled. 

Replacing a heat exchanger only solves part of the issue. It doesn't resolve the cause of the problem which is most often a furnace that is the wrong size or one that is not installed correctly. The best solution is to replace the whole furnace with a new properly sized and vented furnace that is properly installed. When you add up utility rebates, tax credits, factory rebates, and the energy savings of a properly sized furnace, a furnace replacement can actually be cheaper than repairing the old equipment.

Ohio Heating & Air has a full line of energy-efficient furnaces that can save you money on your fuel bills and our easy finance options make it easy to afford. Give us a call at 614-863-6666 to learn more.

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Topics: furnace repair, cracked heat exchanger

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