The heat exchanger is not only the most costly component of your furnace, but it also plays a key role in safe fuel combustion. Learning how this critical component works can help you understand the danger of operating your furnace with a cracked heat exchanger.
Heat Exchanger Basics
A heat exchanger isn’t a complicated piece of equipment, but its condition has a direct impact on your family’s safety. It’s a chamber formed from metal coils or tubes located just above your furnace’s fuel burner. Whenever the furnace cycles on and the burner ignites, hot combustion gases that heat up the metal chamber are produced. Then, the blower fan starts up and sends air across the chamber’s outer surface to absorb heat before it’s pushed out through the ductwork to warm your home.
Why Heat Exchanger Damage Occurs
Each time the heat exchanger heats up and cools down, its metal expands and contracts. Over time, this leads to metal fatigue and allows small cracks to form. Age is a major contributing factor in this type of deterioration, but a heat exchanger can also fail prematurely due to a lack of regular maintenance or running the system with a dirty furnace filter. When soot or dust accumulates on the heat exchanger, it creates an insulating layer that slows down the heat transfer process. This can allow condensation to form and accelerate corrosion.
What are the Risks of a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
If the heat exchanger is eaten away by rust or has developed cracks from metal fatigue, your furnace can’t burn fuel completely due to pressure changes inside the chamber. This incomplete combustion produces higher-than-normal levels of lethal carbon monoxide, and running the furnace with a deteriorated heat exchanger can let these poisonous exhaust fumes enter your air supply. Having an experienced HVAC professional perform annual furnace maintenance that includes a thorough heat exchanger inspection can identify emerging problems and help keep your family safe.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Yuma, Arizona about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about heat exchangers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 928-723-3183.
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