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Ask The Experts: Cracked Heat Exchanger

Ask The Experts: Cracked Heat Exchanger

Yes, The Dangers Of A Cracked Heat Exchanger Are Real!

The heat exchanger has been described as the lynchpin of a forced air furnace. However, truthfully it is actually much more than that; if a heat exchanger fails or cracks, it poses a possible fatal risk to a household. In most cases, unless the homeowner has scheduled routine furnace maintenance, they may not even know they have cracks or holes in the unit, unless the heating system fails! This is one of the reasons that it is recommended your system be serviced by a well-trained licensed professional company.

In this segment of Ask The Experts, our goal is to help you better understand the functions of your furnace heat exchanger and the possible life threatening dangers of running your system with a cracked heat exchanger.

Q: What is the primary function of a heat exchanger?

A: “A heat exchanger is a piece of metal formed into a type of chamber designed to separate the safe warm air that is circulated through your home from the poisonous carbon monoxide gas created during the combustion process when you operate your furnace.”

Q: What are possible causes of cracks in a heat exchanger?

A: “The natural heating and cooling cycles of a furnace can lead to cracks in a heat exchanger. A furnace that is being overworked or stressed is more likely to have a premature breakdown and potential carbon monoxide (CO) leak. Dirty air filters, blocked vents, undersized return and or supply ducts and burners that are not firing properly and disrupting the combustion process can all contribute to the detrimental stress that may lead to cracks in a heat exchanger.”

Q: Are there any precautions I should take to ensure safety?

A: “Yes, please follow the steps listed below:

  • Purchase a top quality CO detector to monitor your home and monitor.
  • Test for CO in the supply air, in and around the furnace burners and venting. If any CO is detected, the furnace should not be used under any circumstances and should be replaced.
  • Test the flue gas for CO. If the readings exceed 100PPM CO, the furnace should not be used under any circumstances and should be repaired if possible or replaced.”

Q. What are the potential dangers of operating your HVAC system with a cracked heat exchanger?

A: “If a crack in the heat exchanger allows carbon monoxide to escape into your home you may experience dizziness, light-headedness, flu-like symptoms without a fever, or if high in concentrates even death by asphyxiation. Carbon monoxide limits the body’s ability to take in oxygen. This is an extremely dangerous situation to have in the home, because the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning may be gradual and undetected.”