The heat exchanger in your furnace is a series of coils made of thin metal that heat the air that blows into your house. The exchanger is sealed from the combustion side of your furnace, but sometimes the seal is broken when the exchanger develops a crack. When your furnace gets old, the risk of problems with the heat exchanger increases due to years of expansion and contraction of the metal. However, fairly new furnaces can develop exchanger problems, too. A bad heat exchanger should be repaired as soon as possible. Here's a look at the signs of a cracked heat exchanger and why you should have it repaired.
Signs The Heat Exchanger In your Furnace Is Bad
A crack in the metal can allow air to reach the combustion area of the furnace. This can affect the flames and the way they burn. Normally, gas furnace flames are blue and steady. When air reaches them, the flames can dance around in response to airflow. This is one sign there's a problem with your furnace. Other signs include the accumulation of soot on the exchanger or the furnace and the soot can cause the flames to change color. Also, the soot and changes in combustion could cause your furnace to produce an unusual odor. In addition, your carbon monoxide alarm may go off.
A cracked heat exchanger doesn't always cause problems with carbon monoxide, but carbon monoxide can potentially leak through the cracks and cause a danger to your family. A carbon monoxide alarm near your furnace gives you early warning of this problem. It's also possible you won't notice signs of trouble, but a furnace repair technician can spot cracks during a routine service call and recommend repairs if they're needed.
Why You Should Repair A Bad Heat Exchanger
A bad heat exchanger can be a danger to your family, and it affects how your furnace operates. It's so important to repair this problem that HVAC technicians are often required to red tag a furnace with a bad exchanger, meaning it can't be operated until repairs are done. The technician can show you the cracks or the reports of the combustion tests, and then you can discuss how to get your furnace working safely again. Repairs usually involve replacing the exchanger rather than trying to weld over the cracks or holes.
However, one thing you and the technician will need to discuss is the age of your furnace and whether replacing the exchanger is best or if you should replace the entire furnace. Having regular maintenance on your furnace might reduce the risk of heat exchanger problems, but eventually age can take its toll and you may decide getting a new furnace is the best option. On the other hand, if your furnace is still fairly young, then making repairs by replacing the exchanger would probably make more sense.