What happens when your furnace heat exchanger goes bad? You may not know what a heat exchanger is, let alone how to tell there’s a problem with it. You simply know that your furnace keeps your home nice and warm. Your heat exchanger is essential, and every furnace has one. If you’re interested in a detailed explanation of how a furnace works, read more here: How a Furnace Works: A Guide from Seattle.
A heat exchanger is the part that’s responsible for heating the air. Not only that, but it keeps dangerous combustion gases safely contained so that they don’t escape into your home. If there’s a problem with this part, your furnace may not only stop heating, but can also release dangerous carbon monoxide into your home. For that reason, it’s crucial to be in the know about signs there’s a problem with your heat exchanger. Below are some signs to look out for.
Signs your furnace heat exchanger has cracked
- The furnace flame is not blue
- Soot buildup
- Cracks or corrosion
- Odd smell
- Water collects around the furnace
1) The furnace flame is not blue
Your furnace flame should be blue. A blue flame means your system is functioning as it should. Keep an eye on the color of the flame. If the flame is yellow, it could mean your burner is dirty or your heat exchanger is cracked.
2) Soot buildup
Soot is the result of burnt carbon. If you are noticing soot buildup, it’s possible your burners aren’t working correctly. The other possible culprit is a cracked heat exchanger. Regardless of the cause of the soot buildup, you will want to get the issue repaired promptly. If this is not fixed, it could lead to carbon monoxide production.
3) Cracks or corrosion
If you see visible signs of wear and tear on the outside of your furnace, it’s likely that the internal components are wearing down as well. You may be due for a replacement furnace if there’s a lot of damage and your system is no longer working properly.
4) Odd smell
If you notice a strong chemical smell, or a smell similar to formaldehyde, contact an HVAC expert immediately. It’s possible the heat exchanger has cracked and toxic fumes have entered your house. You may also notice physical symptoms such as nausea and headaches.
5) Water collects around the furnace
There could be several causes for water collecting around your furnace, such as a condensation problem or a clogged internal drain system. It could also be from a damaged heat exchanger. An HVAC expert will be able to get to the root of the problem, so you’ll want to contact one to get to the root of the problem and prevent water damage inside your home.
Why is a cracked furnace heat exchanger dangerous?
- When this key component cracks, harmful gases such as carbon monoxide can leak into your home. This can cause physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness.
- Carbon monoxide isn’t the only potential danger either. Other gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can leak as well. These can also cause physical symptoms similar to the flu.
- A damaged heat exchanger will also cause strain on your furnace, which will cause it to be less efficient. This will in turn increase your heating costs.
What to do if you suspect a crack
If you suspect your furnace heat exchanger has cracked, you need to contact an HVAC expert as soon as possible. At the very least, a cracked heat exchanger needs to be replaced, but it’s also possible that other parts in the furnace need to be replaced as well. If too many parts need to be replaced, it may make more sense to replace the whole furnace.
The worst case scenario from a cracked heat exchange is a carbon monoxide leak, which is extremely dangerous. A carbon monoxide detector in your home will help alert you to the presence of this gas, but do not completely rely on it. If you or your family are noticing symptoms such as headaches, fever, nausea, or dizziness, it’s possible there’s carbon monoxide in your home, and you should contact us immediately.
Whether it’s the heat exchanger or any other furnace issue, we can repair it or replace your furnace if needed. It’s always a good idea to keep an expert set of eyes on your system with regular maintenance. This can help keep your system running well and keep your family safe by preventing hazardous carbon monoxide problems.