Danger: Cracked Heat Exchanger in a Furnace
Putting the word Danger! right at the front of a title of a blog post about furnaces may make it sound like gas furnaces are inherently hazardous pieces of equipment. The truth is that natural gas furnaces—which are found in more homes than any other type of heater—are built for safe operation. If you take regular care of your furnace through annual maintenance inspections and prompt repairs when necessary, you shouldn’t expect to run into any dangers.
However, it’s important to know about the ways a gas furnace can become a safety hazard. We’ll look at one of the more common ones, the cracked heat exchanger.
What’s a heat exchanger?
In simplest terms, it’s the part of the furnace that does the actual heating of the air. The hot combustion gas from the burner enters this metal chamber, where the heat transfers to the walls. Air is blown past the exchanger and picks up heat before going into the ventilation system.
Why are cracks in it a problem?
If a heat exchanger develops even small cracks along its surface, it can permit the combustion gas inside it to escape. Because the exchanger expands as it heats up, these cracks gap wide enough for toxic gases like carbon monoxide to slip out, which will then enter the air going into the house.
How do cracks develop in a heat exchanger?
Standard wear and tear—the metal expanding and contracting over many years—can lead to cracks. But it can also occur because of corrosion. The vapor in combustion gas reacting with the metal over years sometimes lead to corrosion that weakens the metal to the point of cracking.
How can I tell I have a cracked heat exchanger?
The best way to know is to make sure that you have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. If these go off, shut off the gas and evacuate your house. When the immediate danger is past, call our furnace repair technicians to look into the problem with the furnace. If the issue is a cracked heat exchanger, we can replace the exchanger. In situations where the furnace is extremely old, it may be better to put in a new furnace.
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