Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

As a premier heating system service near Alpharetta, GA, Gagne Heating & Air Conditioning understands that furnaces can be an excellent choice for most homeowners. 

Nonetheless, furnaces include many components that can become damaged or malfunction over time, including the heat exchanger. But is a crack in a heat exchanger dangerous? In short, the answer is yes. Even a small crack in a heat exchanger can have unexpected and costly risks.

While furnaces are not dangerous in and of themselves, using natural gas in your home increases the risk of toxic gas leaks and combustion problems. You can be proactive in avoiding these issues by taking proper care of your heat exchangers.

What Exactly Is a Heat Exchanger?

A heat exchanger is a component that applies heat to the air, which your blower fan sends into the ventilation system. It’s a clam-shell-shaped metal chamber, arranged in rows within the furnace system. That is where hot combustion gas from the burners collects. Standard furnaces have one heat exchanger, while high-efficiency furnaces have two.

The intense heat from the gas raises the temperature of the metal walls, making the outside of the exchanger extremely hot. This process allows the furnace to apply the heat of the combustion gas to the air without releasing those gases into your home.

What Can Cause My Heat Exchanger to Crack?

The heat exchangers undergo a large amount of strain throughout the year, especially during the winter. Each time they heat up, the metal expands. Over time, expansion and contraction weaken it, which can eventually lead to corrosion.

This process poses a higher risk in older furnaces and those that are not well maintained. Corrosion weakens the metal, and the added stress on the heat exchangers can result in small cracks that may not be detectable to the naked eye but could lead to significant health and safety issues.

Check out this infographic on a few reasons why your heat exchanger may crack, and continue reading to learn more about potential dangers and how Gagne Heating & Air Conditioning can help.

Causes of a cracked heat exchanger.

Are There Any Dangers of a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

Yes, a crack in a heat exchanger is dangerous—especially when not handled on time. 

With your busy schedule, you might feel tempted to brush off a small crack in a heat exchanger. However, even minor cracks can be hazardous to your health and safety. 

Here are the two main dangers of heat exchanger cracks.

1. Furnace Fires

A crack in a heat exchanger is dangerous for several reasons, including furnace fires. When gas and air combust in your gas furnace’s heat exchanger, the un-combusted gas can become explosive. Once in this explosive state, the gas will combust and try to enter your home in any way possible—such as through a heat exchanger crack.

Furnace fires are incredibly dangerous, but they can also lead to irreparable damages and expensive repairs. Fortunately, regular maintenance services can help you catch problems before the problem can worsen.

2. Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Do you have a gas furnace? If so, even a small crack in your heat exchanger can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into your home at dangerous levels.

When fossil fuels burn, they create fumes containing carbon monoxide harmful fumes and safely conduct them to the chimney, all while transferring “clean” heat into your home. If a crack or rust compromises the heat exchanger, dangerous flue gases, such as nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide, may leak into the house, resulting in illness and possibly death of the occupants. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and weakness.

What Are the Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

Do you think your furnace might have a small crack in the heat exchanger? There are a few warning signs to watch out for. 

Evidence of Soot

If there’s soot inside your furnace, this indicates something wrong with the burners or the heat exchanger. You will usually notice soot if there is incomplete combustion.

Cracks on the Furnace

Over time, your furnace will experience wear and tear. Unfortunately, this corrosion and damage can also start to affect the inner components of your heating system. When there are cracks and damage on the outside of your furnace, this can indicate similar cracks on other important parts, such as the heat exchanger.

Strange, Unpleasant Odors

Is a foul smell in your home giving you headaches? A damaged heat exchanger can result in strange smells that are comparable with formaldehyde.

Should I Get Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

Aside from keeping up with furnace maintenance, we recommend you have carbon monoxide detectors installed. If your carbon monoxide detectors discover gas in the home, make sure to open your windows, vacate the premises, and call for Alpharetta emergency HVAC services immediately.

Call the Heating Experts

There’s no denying that a crack in a heat exchanger is dangerous. If you encounter a problem with your furnace, Gagne is here to help. Our HVAC technicians offer top-quality HVAC services and perform heating replacements in Alpharetta that will meet your needs. In most cases, a furnace replacement might end up being more advantageous than replacing the heat exchanger. 

For more information about our services or gas repairs in Alpharetta, GA, contact Gagne Heating & Air Conditioning today.