Having a cracked heat exchanger is a huge issue, that needs to be resolved immediately. It's dangerous, and it will result in your heating system not working. With the way the winters are in Rochester, this simply isn't an option. You have to have this taken care of quickly.

Replacing a furnace is no small task. It costs a decent amount of money, and is an important item that should be in your home for at least 10+ years. Because of these reasons, it’s nice to understand why you will likely need a new system. There is still a chance that you may not have to replace your furnace, but there are a few things you should know about

Whether you actually have a cracked heat exchanger, or you’re just trying to be prepared, here are some tips and facts about heat exchangers that may give you a better understanding of what's going on.

What Does It Mean To Have A Cracked Heat Exchanger

It’s important to know what a heat exchanger does in order to know how it cracks, and why it’s a big problem.. To put it in simple terms, it’s the part of the system that heats the air. It’s comprised of a series of coils, or tubes.

Inside the exchanger is where the fuel you use — often gas or oil — combusts. This creates heat, and then a blower pushes the heat through the exchanger and into the vents.

If any part of the heat exchanger splits, cracks, or ruptures in any way, this is when you have a problem.

There are a few reasons your heat exchanger could suffer a crack. A common reason is installing a heater that’s too powerful for the house. This is usually due to a poor recommendation from an HVAC company. When this happens, there is too much heat that has nowhere to go, and it gets backed up, damaging the exchanger.

There could also be a refrigerant leak that’s causing part of the exchanger to freeze over. The sudden shift from very cold to very hot when heat passes through can stress the metal, causing it to rupture. Just like taking a hot glass right from the dishwasher and putting a cold drink in it, this could result in it cracking!

Because the heat exchanger is nestled inside the furnace, you won’t be able to see anything if yours cracks. Still, there are some signs you can look for.

For instance, if you smell something like formaldehyde near the furnace, it could be the result of a cracked exchanger. Also, signs of wear and tear on the outside of the heater, such as rust or buildup, can mean cracks and other damage is occurring on the inside.

Why Does A Cracked Heat Exchanger Matter?

The biggest reason a cracked heat exchanger is a big deal is safety. If your heater is cracked, you could have a Carbon Monoxide leak, which is dangerous and deadly.

If you have a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace — and you should — and it starts beeping, it’s likely you have a cracked heat exchanger.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that’s also lethal to humans. As a matter of safety,  when a carbon monoxide detector goes off you should open all your windows and turn off any appliances that use gas, such as a stove, heater, or oven.

If you feel dizzy, tired or nauseous, go to the hospital and call your fire department.

Carbon monoxide builds up is within your furnace, which is why this should be looked at regularly. However, because it’s contained within the heat exchanger, it doesn’t get into the ductwork or your house. If the heat exchanger cracks, however, the carbon monoxide can begin leaking into your home, putting you and your family at serious risk.

There’s some debate over whether this happens every time a heat exchanger cracks, or if it always results in enough carbon monoxide to hurt you. We can tell you one thing is for certain: a cracked heat exchanger means you must replace your entire furnace.

The American Gas Association recommends replacing the entire unit for safety reasons. The heat exchanger itself can’t be fixed, only replaced. Because it’s located in the center of the furnace, even if you were to replace one, the labor and parts cost would likely be the same or more as a new furnace.

For these reasons, a cracked heat exchanger means you need a new furnace. Rather than putting a band-aid on an old unit that has to be replaced too anyway, getting a new, energy efficient system is the move. That also means shelling out a decent amount of money pretty quickly.

What Steps To Take When You Have A Crack Heat Exchanger

First, take some steps to make sure the heat exchanger is actually cracked. To make sure of this, you’ll need a professional. They’ll start by taking carbon monoxide readings and perform a visual inspection as best they can.

Unfortunately, not all professionals are honest. Some companies will scam a homeowner because you can’t actually see the damage. Just like a mechanic for your car, you have to take their word for it.

You can do a little research on your own first, to ensure you are choosing the right HVAC company.. First, make sure the company you called has a good reputation and has been around for awhile. Check out reviews on Google and Facebook. This will give you an idea of how satisfied people are with their work.

Then, ask them to show you the crack in the heat exchanger once they’ve taken out the old unit. They should insist on educating you instead of keeping you in the dark. If they refuse, don’t let them do the work. If they do and can’t actually find a crack, tell them to put the old unit back in at no charge.

It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion. Many times, a good company will send out a supervisor, or at least a second tech, to double-check the work. If that company won’t do it, find another company to check your system for you.

If  the heat exchanger is cracked, you’ll need to look into a new furnace and quickly. However, it’s a costly item, so you want to make sure you do your research. If you are in the area and need a hand, the experts at Airquip would be glad to help you out!

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