In the US alone, the majority of homes use a furnace for heating. Some of you may know them as gas heaters or gas-powered heaters. No matter the terminology, they happen to be the most popular choice. A gas furnace, due to the inherent nature of the fuel used, has some associated risks. Yes, these units are built for endurance with all the necessary care. Still, if you don’t take care, they can develop problems. Some of which may have the potential to cause major incidents. One such problem that all homeowners should be on the lookout for is a cracked heat exchanger.
To know why a cracked heat exchanger poses a problem, it is essential to know what exactly it is.
What Is A Heat Exchanger?
In order to produce heat, the furnace ignites the fuel, which happens to be gas in most cases, in a closed chamber. When the gas ignites, it produces flue gases (a mix of gas and fumes produced due to combustion), which happens to be unsafe to breathe. At this point, the heat exchanger plays a pivotal role.
The heat exchanger is a thin metallic buffer that separates the combustion chamber from the blower. It prevents the flue gases from being circulated throughout the house by the blower fan. Instead, what happens is that the combustion heats the combustion chamber and heats the air that comes in contact with it on the outside. The flue gases remain trapped inside the combustion chamber, and the blower blows the heated air into the house to warm it.
A prominent observation that one can draw from the above description is that the heat exchanger has to be properly sealed to prevent the flue gases from finding their way into the house.
A Cracked Heat Exchanger
One tends to assume that since the heat exchanger is made of metal, it will stay in tip-top shape and work flawlessly. What we fail to do is take into account the impact of heat on it. When the heat exchanger becomes hot, the metal expands. When the furnace is switched off, the heat exchanger cools down, and its metal contracts to its original shape.
After years of operation, the metal of the heat exchanger becomes fragile or brittle. When it reaches this stage, it may develop cracks or some other associated problem.
The Problem With A Cracked Heat Exchanger
When the heat exchanger develops a crack, its seal is broken. What it essentially means is that the flue gases cannot be contained inside anymore. These gases will now find their way into your living environment with the help of a blower.
Now let’s get down to the core of the problem. The flue air contains carbon monoxide along with other harmful gases. Breathing in these gases can cause health problems. Moreover, carbon monoxide is known to be a silent killer. Its leak is impossible to detect by the human nose and eye due to its odorless and colorless nature.
How Carbon Monoxide Is Produced In Heat Exchanger
Ideally, the heat exchanger should not produce carbon monoxide as it isn’t a byproduct of the gas that combusts within the furnace. Nevertheless, it is still known to happen when there is something incorrect in the way that the unit brings about combustion. Since nobody is willing to take chances due to the hazardous nature of the gas, it is recommended to deal with such critical dangers as soon as possible.
Preventing Heat Exchanger Problems
Preventing heat exchanger problems is not very difficult. You need to be a little vigilant and alert. That’s all there is to it. Here are a couple of things that you can do to avoid such occurrences:
1. Don’t Slack On Annual Furnace Maintenance Regime – Never underestimate the importance of annual furnace maintenance. It is this particular activity that may save the day for you sometime. Most of us consider it a wasteful activity. The thorough checks carried out to validate the safety of the equipment increase the unit’s efficiency and reduce the chances of unexpected breakdowns. A cracked heat exchanger can also be caught well in time if the annual maintenance routine is carefully followed.
2. Allow An HVAC Professional Only To Work On The Furnace – It’s easy to fall prey to those who ask for less money to complete a job. Nevertheless, avoid becoming a victim of such scams. Permit only a trained and certified HVAC professional to carry out the installation, repairs, maintenance, and replacement of the furnace. At a little extra cost, your safety and that of your heating and cooling equipment are guaranteed.
3. Know The Life Of Your Unit – The usually expected life of a heat exchanger is 10 to 20 years. As you near the 15-year mark, you should actively start thinking about replacement. Additionally, at the time of tune-up, the HVAC technician will be able to give you a better idea about its remaining useful product life. In this manner, you can prepare for the replacement, arrange the funds, and take necessary action well in time.
Food For Thought
A cracked heat exchanger is hard to detect by the homeowner. It is because the problem is inside the furnace and not outside. Only a technician who takes apart the furnace for repairs or maintenance will be able to detect the problem. Do ensure that you get a good and reliable HVAC contractor even if they cost more. After all, it is the question of your safety and that of your equipment.
Aztil Air Conditioning is a well-known name amongst HVAC contractors in West Palm Beach, Florida. If you need a technician to have a look at your furnace or book a tune-up, call us at +1-888-729-8452. We not only carry out repairs and maintenance of the heating and cooling system but also handle installations and replacements. In short, we are your one-stop-shop for all HVAC needs. Since we are always open, you can call us any time to book an appointment. We even carry out emergency repairs. So, next time you need a professional, reliable, and reputable contractor, give us a call.