A heat exchanger in a furnace is a critical component that ensures the warm air circulating in your home is free from combustion or toxic gases. However, like any mechanical component exposed to continuous heat cycles, heat exchangers are prone to wear and tear. One of the most concerning issues they can develop is cracking. Understanding why heat exchangers crack and recognizing the signs of this problem can be important in maintaining a safe and efficient heating system. Absolute P&M Services would like to share why heat exchangers can develop cracks and the signs of this hazardous problems.
Why Do Heat Exchangers Crack?
Like many components, heat exchangers can deteriorate with age. As the metal gets older, it can weaken and become more susceptible to cracking. The continuous process of heating up and cooling down causes the metal to expand and contract. Over time, this can lead to metal fatigue and result in cracks. Additionally, if there is a restriction in airflow, the heat exchanger can’t dissipate heat effectively. This might happen due to clogged filters or blocked air vents, causing the exchanger to overheat and potentially crack. Exposure to moisture or certain chemicals can lead to corrosion, which weakens the metal, making it more prone to cracking. Lastly, An improperly adjusted or malfunctioning burner can produce a hotter flame than what the heat exchanger is designed to handle, leading to rapid wear and cracking.
How Do You Know if You have a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
• Unusual Odors: A functioning heat exchanger ensures that combustion gases are vented outside. A crack might release these gases into the circulating air, producing a distinct, often described as a formaldehyde-like, smell.
• Water Around the Furnace Base: As the byproduct of combustion, water vapor is typically vented out. If there is a crack, this vapor can condense and pool around the furnace.
• Soot Buildup: If you notice black soot accumulating inside the furnace, it could be an indication of an incomplete burn and potentially a crack in the heat exchanger.
• Visible Cracks: While not always easy to spot without dismantling the furnace, in some cases, cracks or deformities might be visible upon inspection.
• Physical Symptoms: If combustion gases, especially carbon monoxide, leak into your home due to a cracked exchanger, they can cause symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, making it especially dangerous. Installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home is crucial.
• Flame Behavior: A stable blue flame is a sign of proper combustion. If you observe the furnace flame turning yellow or flickering erratically, it could be a sign of a compromised heat exchanger.
What to Do if You Suspect a Cracked Heat Exchanger
If you believe there is a crack, especially if you experience physical symptoms or detect unusual odors, shut off the furnace and ventilate your home immediately. Due to the risk associated with combustion gases, it’s essential to call in a licensed HVAC technician to inspect, diagnose, and address the issue. Annual furnace inspections can help identify potential problems like cracks in their early stages, ensuring your system remains safe and efficient.
Furnace Heating Maintenance, Repairs, Replacement & More in Santa Fe, Tomball, Sugar Land, Galveston, Austin & Greater Houston, Texas
The heat exchanger is a crucial component of your furnace system, ensuring both efficiency and safety. Recognizing the reasons for cracks and being vigilant about the signs can help homeowners take prompt action, ensuring the safety and comfort of their households. Regular maintenance and professional inspections remain key in preventing and identifying such issues. If you fear you have a cracked heat exchanger and need help, contact Absolute P&M Services today.