When it comes to keeping homes warm, nothing beats a gas furnace. Well—that’s not necessarily true. If your gas-powered furnace is old or ill-maintained, then there’s a lot of newer, more efficient systems that would be better. But the point is that gas furnaces are powerful, effective, and efficient.
As we just mentioned, they have to be well cared for! This means scheduling annual maintenance for them. Maintenance allows our technicians to comprehensively inspect, clean, and adjust the system, all while checking for potential repair needs that might exist. We’ll alert you to these repair needs so you can get them on your schedule right away.
One repair need we check for during maintenance tune-ups, and we’re especially concerned about in aging systems (10-15 years old) is a cracked heat exchanger. Read on to learn more, including how to spot signs that you might have a cracked heat exchanger.
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
This is the component of your furnace that actually enables it to heat up the air that is traveling through the system. Heat exchangers are metal, clam-shell shaped chambers, that fill up with hot combustion gas. Then, the blower fan of your furnace blows air over the exchangers, picking up the heat to distribute it into your living space.
Why they crack is often old age and a lot of use. Let’s face it, you run your heater a lot every winter, and it’s going to accumulate natural wear and tear. Over the years, heat exchangers heat up and cool down thousands of times, and each time the metal expands and contracts, making it prone to corrosion and subsequent damage.
Heat exchangers can also crack due to poor maintenance. If the burners of your furnace aren’t cleaned during annual tune-ups, for instance, then combustion gasses can build up and cause small bursts that ignite and cause your furnace to rattle. When a furnace rattles like this, it can knock the heat exchangers around, leading to damage.
How Do You Know If You Have a Crack?
You can’t exactly open up your furnace and look inside to see if you have a crack on the heat exchanger. Well, you shouldn’t. Even if you did, these cracks are so small they’re practically invisible to the naked eye. But there are signs you can watch out for! And when you notice these signs, you can give us a call and we will check for heat exchanger cracks using the appropriate tools.
Here are those signs you can watch for:
- Soot on the Furnace: Have you noticed soot building up anywhere on or near your furnace? This is a sign it’s not burning cleanly and a damaged heat exchanger could very well be to blame.
- Visible Corrosion: If you see corrosion anywhere, it’s a sign of wear and tear. And if wear and tear is occurring on the outside of your furnace, it’s almost certainly happening on the inside,
- Foul Odors: The most harmful combustion gas that can come out of your heat exchanger and potentially enter your indoor air is carbon monoxide (CO). It’s tasteless and odorless so installing CO detectors is the only way to know it’s in your home. Other combustion gasses though, and things like burning electrical elements, emit a smell. If you think you smell anything “off” coming from your furnace, shut the system off and give us a call! It might not be the heat exchanger that’s struggling, but there is still a problem that needs addressing.