If you’ve been informed that your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, that’s information that must be taken seriously. In addition to transferring heat from the furnace burner flame into the household airflow, the heat exchanger also keeps dangerous combustion gasses, including carbon monoxide, out of the airflow by exhausting them up the vent into outside air.
A crack in the heat exchanger, however, may allow these toxic gasses to contaminate heated air circulating throughout your home, potentially exposing occupants to deadly hazards.
How Does It Happen?
Cracked heat exchangers aren’t unusual in older furnaces. In fact, the age of the unit is one of the major predictors of cracks as the metal component is exposed to normal expansion and contraction during heating cycles over many years. Other potential causes include low system airflow that may overheat the exchanger, rust and corrosion, and a burner flame that’s running too hot.
How Dangerous Is It?
Industry safety organizations maintain a “no exceptions” policy toward heat exchanger cracks: the component must be replaced or a new furnace must be installed. Usually, an HVAC technician or utility company employee who discovers a defective heat exchanger is legally required to turn off the furnace and shut off its gas supply to ensure safety of the home’s occupants. This is a procedure known as “red-tagging.”
What’s The Next Step?
You have a choice to make: to replace only the heat exchanger or to purchase an entirely new furnace. A heat exchanger is typically the most expensive component inside a furnace. In fact, the expense of having it installed may nearly approximate the price of a new furnace.
If your existing furnace is 10 years old or more, the most viable choice is usually to replace the entire furnace. In addition to restoring safe heating operation to your home, you’ll also get the benefits inherent in a newer unit including more advanced heating technology, improved energy efficiency and lower heating costs.
For professional advice about a cracked heat exchanger, contact Hansberger Refrigeration and Electric Company.