Are you one of the many homeowners in our area using a gas-powered furnace to keep your home warm this fall and winter? This is a great choice, and actually is still the most popular option among homeowners nationwide. This is especially true for climates like ours, with a need for a powerful heating system that will keep residents warm no matter what the weather has to throw our way.
Furnaces are cost-effective, and a great choice for many individuals. But when not properly maintained and serviced, furnaces can become dangerous. This is actually the case for any gas-powered appliance in your home. While they won’t be dangerous by nature, skipping important tune-ups or ignoring an aging furnace can certainly lead to operational and safety issues. One of these potential issues is a cracked heat exchanger.
“So, What Is a Heat Exchanger?”
We’re so glad you asked! This is the component responsible for actually providing heat to the air that your furnace system’s blower fan sends into the ventilation system, and then into your home. It’s a clam-shell shaped metal chamber, and a series of them are arranged in rows within your heating system. These heat exchangers are where hot combustion gas from the burners collects, to provide heat for your home.
This gas gets intensely hot, heating up the metal walls of the exchangers. This allows your furnace to apply that heat from the combustion gasses to the air without letting those gasses actually get in contact with the air in your living space.
The Causes of a Cracked Heat Exchanger
The heat exchangers of your furnace system go through a lot of strain throughout the years. Each time they are heated up, the metal expands. Over time, the constant expansion of the metal weakens it, and this leads to eventual corrosion.
As you might imagine, this is a larger risk in aging furnaces than it is newer systems, as well as furnaces that haven’t been well-maintained.
Skipping maintenance allows your furnace’s components to get covered in dirt and grime. If the burners get too dirty, it can be harder for the jets to ignite, and when they do it can cause your furnace to rattle pretty violently, which also raises the risk for damage to other components, like the heat exchangers!
The Problem with Cracked Heat Exchangers
The average homeowner isn’t typically able to see cracks on a heat exchanger. They are microscopic and shrink down to almost closing when the heat exchangers cool down. In fact, you could likely pour water onto a cracked heat exchanger that’s already cooled down and not even see a drop leak through.
What happens, in this case, is that the heat exchanger heats up, and the cracks widen, enabling unhealthy gasses like carbon monoxide to get into your living space, rather than safely being expelled through the system’s flue.
If people are exposed to too much carbon monoxide, it can cause nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, and much more. In severe cases, it causes fatalities. We really can’t overstate how harmful a cracked heat exchanger is.