Can a Cracked Heat Exchanger be Dangerous?

Furnace heating systems are composed of many different parts that work together to create heat and deliver it inside your home. When problems occur with these parts, system performance suffers – the problem we want to discuss today is a cracked heat exchanger.

Why is a cracked heat exchanger a problem? Well, this malfunction opens up your household to danger due to the nature of the heat exchanger. The heating technicians of Sanborn’s Air Conditioning & Heating explain how the heat exchanger works and why a crack requires immediate attention from us.

What Is a Heat Exchanger?

If you look inside your furnace, you see a set of coils or tubes – this is the heat exchanger. Their function is to add heat to the air that circulates through the furnace. When your thermostat triggers a heating cycle. In a gas furnace, the furnace fires up, and burners ignite the gas to produce heated exhaust and combustion byproducts that travel through the exchanger. In an electric furnace, the coils warm up using electric current. In both models, air passes over the warm heat exchanger where it picks up heat before traveling through your ducts and into the home.

Cracks Mean Danger

While both electric and gas furnaces use heat exchangers, damage to the system is an issue specifically in gas systems. In proper condition, the heat exchanger is a completely sealed chamber – combustion byproducts enter through one end and are expelled from another out the furnace flue.

The metal is constantly exposed to changing temperatures, as hot gases pass through and the metal cools after a heating cycle. Over time, this stress can cause the metal to crack, or corrosion caused by the combustion gases weaken the metal to the point of cracking. Once there is a crack in the heat exchanger, this component is no longer able to keep combustion gases sealed within. As the metal reheats during a heating cycle, the cracks widen and allow gases to pass through.

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

When these gases mix with air, incomplete combustion may occur which leads to the formation of carbon monoxide and other unsafe combustion byproducts. These leak out through a cracked heat exchanger. There is a risk that the carbon monoxide will leak into your living spaces, which puts your family in immediate danger.

Carbon monoxide has no color or odor, and is virtually impossible to detect by humans. Exposure to high volumes of carbon monoxide can be deadly. Carbon monoxide detectors are the only way to sense if this harmful byproduct has entered your home – they should be installed on every level of your home, outside sleeping areas.

Warning Signs

To prevent carbon monoxide, it is important to be diligent with your furnace maintenance in San Bernardino. An annual maintenance tune up by a professional includes a visual inspection of the component as well as combustion analysis to determine the heat exchanger’s condition.

Outside of your annual maintenance tune up, watch for warning signs that are indicative of damage. If you notice these signs, stop using your furnace immediately and call Sanborn’s for furnace repair:

  • The furnace makes a clicking sound moments after the blower motor stops at the end of the heating cycle.
  • When you look inside your furnace, there is visible corrosion on the coils or elsewhere within the furnace.
  • If your carbon monoxide detectors go off, you want to have your furnace inspected by a professional to determine if the alert was caused by a crack or other furnace issue.

Call Sanborn’s for Cracked Heat Exchanger Repair

Ensure your family’s safety with regular furnace maintenance visits and professional repairs when the signs of a cracked heat exchanger appear. Contact Sanborn’s Air Conditioning & Heating today to schedule service.