Made up of tubes and metal shells, the heat exchanger is part of the furnace and plays a vital role in ensuring that you receive the hot air you need to be comfortable.
When the furnace burns natural gas or propane, the exhaust byproducts enter and travel through the heat exchanger. This heats the metal as it passes through to the furnace’s exhaust outlet, and at the same time, the hot metal heats the air that blows across the heat exchanger. From here, the system distributes the warmed air throughout the house through the air ducts.
The air inside a gas furnace and around the heat exchanger gets extremely hot, causing the metal inside the exchanger to expand and contract. When new, the heat exchanger can withstand the heat, but the heat exchanger wears out with time, and the metal expansion and contraction cause stress cracks in the heat exchanger.
According to heating service repair professionals, heat exchangers last between 10-20 years. If your appliance is within this range, any cracks within the heat exchanger are normal.
Do you have an old furnace and are wondering what are the symptoms of a damaged heat exchanger? Well, there are many of them, with the common ones being:
Healthy, normal flames are blue, so if your furnace’s flame is blue, it indicates that your heat exchanger is functioning correctly and you have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if the flame is yellow, it might be a sign that your heat exchanger has cracked.
If the flame is yellow and it flickers, the chances are high that the furnace has extensive damage that you should have them looked at by a professional.
The pungent smell coming from the furnace.
A properly functioning furnace shouldn’t give off any smells, so if yours is, it means it has a serious problem that you should have looked at by professionals.
When a heat exchanger is cracked, your furnace will produce strong fumes that smell like formaldehyde. Besides these fumes making your house uncomfortable to live in, they also pose health risks to you and your family members.
When your heat exchanger is broken, you will hear your carbon monoxide detector go off because the furnace releases too much carbon monoxide.
Whether it’s the pungent formaldehyde smell or the carbon monoxide detector going off, never ignore it as it’s a clear sign you have a serious problem with your appliances, and you should have them looked at by an expert.
When your heat exchanger has cracked, you have plenty of carbon in the heating system, and this leads to plenty of soot in the furnace. So, if you have noticed that your furnace is producing a lot of soot, you might be having incomplete combustion that might result from a cracked heat exchanger.
Clear signs of damage
On close inspection, you will see clear cracks on the heat exchanger, and you don’t need to do anything else to tell that your heat exchanger is malfunctioning. As mentioned, the cracking comes about as a result of the constant expansion and contraction.
It’s also common for the exchanger to be corroded often due to moisture from the chloride-containing fumes and combustion byproducts.
Your family having flu-like symptoms.
In the worst-case scenario, the cracked heat exchanger will leak carbon monoxide, and the detectors fail to detect it. When the family members inhale carbon monoxide, they develop flu-like symptoms without an apparent reason. The most common symptoms include: nausea, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, and loss of breath.
Children, the elderly, and pets are often the most vulnerable, so if you notice any of the symptoms, you should move with haste and find the reason behind it as early as possible.
What should you do when you have a cracked heat exchanger?
To avoid the risks of having a cracked heat exchanger, you should get in touch with an experienced furnace repair service Long Island to look at the heat exchanger. The professional may have to replace the heat exchanger and, even in some cases, the other parts of the furnace.
If too many parts of the furnace are out of shape, it might make sense to replace the entire appliance.