Do you know what the function of your furnace heat exchanger is? This is the component actually responsible for providing heat to your home. But it can only do so effectively throughout its lifetime if you care for your furnace properly through professional maintenance and timely repairs.
A cracked heat exchanger is rare in a newer furnace, but this problem becomes more likely in an aging system that’s suffered from wear and tear and potentially corrosion throughout the years. When well maintained, a furnace can last about 10-15 years. Routine maintenance allows us to comprehensively inspect your entire furnace, including the heat exchanger.
Read on to learn why this is so important, and why a cracked heat exchanger is bad news!
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
We covered this a bit above, but the heat exchanger is the part actually responsible for heating up the air that travels through the vents and into your living space. When the burners of your gas-powered furnace ignite, they generate hot combustion gas, which is collected inside the heat exchanger.
A heat exchanger looks like a small metal chamber, and there can be a series of them inside your heater. Most of them are shaped like a clamshell. The hot combustion gases in the heat exchanger heat up the metal walls. Then, the blower fan blows air over the heat exchangers and through the vents into your home. This way, the combustion gas is able to heat the air entering your home without ever coming into contact with the air.
Once the heating process is done, the combustion byproducts in the heat exchanger get vented out of the system through a flue to release gas harmlessly into the air.
When a Heat Exchanger Cracks
A cracked heat exchanger is a lot more common in an aging furnace, but it’s still an important problem to be aware of even if you have a newer system. The metal of the heat exchanger contracts and expands as it cools and heats back up. This stress is what can eventually cause cracks to occur. The walls of the heat exchangers can also become corroded due to the reaction of the combustion gas and metal. This usually only happens if your furnace isn’t vented properly though, which is why professional installation is so vital!
The cracks in a heat exchanger are tiny–practically microscopic. You wouldn’t be able to spot it when the furnace isn’t operating. But the problem is, when the furnace is operating, these cracks open up with the heat, which can allow gases to enter your home. The worst of these gases is carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is among the leading cause of household tragedies. We say this not to scare you, but to encourage the importance of both professional furnace installation and annual furnace maintenance.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have about your own furnace and its risk of a cracked heat exchanger!