So you suspect or have just found out through your trusted HVAC technician that you have a cracked heat exchanger. But what exactly does this mean for your HVAC system? Could your heat exchanger be repaired, or do you need to replace it as soon as possible? To answer these pressing questions, let us start with what exactly is a heat exchanger.
What Does a Heat Exchanger Do?
In general, a heat exchanger is a device capable of transferring heat between several fluids, without all of them coming in contact with each other. With regards to your HVAC system, it actually does most of the heavy lifting because its main task is to heat air that is pumped through the ducts and vents of your HVAC system.
Could a Heat Exchanger Just Crack?
In most instances, cracking is a natural result of an aging heat exchanger. However, the most common cause of a heat exchanger cracking is due to poor maintenance of the furnace. It is important to note that every winter, a furnace usually cycles on and off approximately 2,500 to 4,000 times, which is a whole lot. This kind of work will definitely take a toll on your heat exchanger if not properly and regularly maintained, notes one of the top HVAC contractors in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Something to Worry About?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In almost all cases, a cracked heat exchanger can prevent the furnace from even working. However, even if you find your furnace still running, you should not use it. Using your furnace with a cracked heat exchanger can produce unhealthy amounts of toxic gases such as nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide, which can endanger your health and increase the risk of a home fire.
How Do I Know If I Have a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
Some of the most common warning signs that you have a cracked heat exchanger include the presence of soot and/or cracks, corrosion on other components of your furnace system, water on your floor, and unusual, gassy smells. Likewise, if you or your family suddenly experience chronic flu-like symptoms or headaches, the culprit might be the leaking gases due to the cracked heat exchanger.
The minute you suspect or officially find out that you have a cracked heat exchanger, you need to act ASAP. Depending on your HVAC technician’s advice, you might need to replace the heat exchanger or your entire furnace system. Choosing which way to go could be a difficult decision since replacing a heat exchanger is expensive. Likewise, in most cases, replacing the furnace, especially if it is constantly breaking down and needing various repairs or is significantly old—five years or more, for instance—might be more cost-effective in the long run not only for your HVAC system but for your utility bills as well. The best thing to do is to work with an experienced HVAC contractor to figure out what you should do, given your specific circumstances.