The furnace in your house comprises several components that enable the heating of property.
Each part is important, and without any of them, the furnace will be less effective or not work at all.
One crucial component of every furnace system is the heat exchanger. For the heat from your furnace to reach your indoor space and warm it up, the heat exchanger plays quite a huge role. In fact, it’s the sole component that ensures that heat from the combustion gasses is absorbed by the indoor air, thus heating up.
However, like most other furnace components, it is prone to damage. In today’s article, we will go over what a cracked heat exchanger is.
We will also answer the question, “how exactly do you identify a cracked heat exchanger?”.
Continue reading to learn more.
Top Cracked Heat Exchanger Symptoms
If your heat exchanger has cracked, here are the most common signs you might notice:
- A Drop in Furnace Efficiency
If you’ve been using the same furnace for a while now, then you know how much energy it takes to heat up your property.
You also know how long it takes for your house to reach the desired temperature. If you notice that your furnace is taking longer than usual to achieve this or if it is using more power, then it’s a sign that the heat exchanger might be cracked.
This happens because when the heat exchanger cracks, it no longer has the ability to sufficiently absorb all the heat being produced by the combustion gasses.
Therefore, some of this heat escapes and goes to waste. Consequently, the furnace tries to make up for it by working harder; in turn, the furnace ends up using more fuel.
- Increased Carbon Monoxide Levels in Your House
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is produced whenever there is incomplete combustion.
Incomplete combustion can happen due to several reasons, such as a faulty burner, blockages in the flue pipes, or a cracked heat exchanger. If you notice an increase in carbon monoxide levels in your house, it might be a sign of a cracked heat exchanger.
Using a carbon monoxide detector, you can easily tell if there’s an increase in CO levels. If not, then some of the symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.
Therefore, if you start experiencing any of these symptoms, it would be best to leave the house immediately and call for help. A professional will be able to ascertain if the CO levels have spiked in your house.
- Soot Around the Furnace
Another sign that the heat exchanger might be cracked is soot around the furnace.
Soot is a black powder that is produced when there is incomplete combustion. It can be found in the air, on surfaces, or on clothes.
If you start noticing soot around your furnace, it’s a sign that the heat exchanger might be cracked and you should call for a professional inspection immediately.
- An Orange or Yellow Flame
When operating correctly, the burner flame in your furnace should be blue. If it starts turning orange or yellow, then it’s a sign of incomplete combustion. And this could be caused by a cracked heat exchanger.
In case you see any of these signs, don’t hesitate to contact a professional for an inspection! A cracked heat exchanger can cause some serious problems if not addressed quickly.
- Water Leaks Around Your Furnace
Sometimes, some water might collect around your furnace, despite the furnace not having condensation issues. If such water leaks occur, they might be due to a cracked heat exchanger.
However, these water leaks might also be from other sources like the humidifier, if connected to the furnace, or a clogged drain system. But whichever the case, this is an issue that should be addressed with haste.
Therefore, don’t take it lightly — contact an expert to assess the system and determine what’s causing the leaks.
- Corrosion and Cracks on the Furnace
Cracks and corrosion can also be symptoms of a cracked heat exchanger in furnace systems. Usually, the combustion gasses that escape from a heat exchanger can cause corrosion on the surrounding metal components.
Also, since the gasses are significantly hot, they can cause cracks in the furnace itself. Any sign of such cracks should prompt you to call for a professional inspection.
What Causes a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
Knowing the signs of a cracked heat exchanger might not be enough. It’s prudent to also learn the root causes of such a problem.
- An Aging Furnace
Just like any other machine, furnaces have a lifespan. And, with time, its parts, including the heat exchanger, start to degrade and become weaker.
A corrosion-resistant coating can help slow down this process. But eventually, the heat exchanger will succumb to old age and develop cracks.
So, if you’ve had that furnace for a good number of years (15 to 20 years), a cracked heat exchanger might be a result of continued use.
- Operating the Furnace at High Temperatures
If you operate your furnace at high temperatures for long periods, this can also cause the heat exchanger to crack.
This is because when metal is heated to high temperatures repeatedly, it weakens and becomes brittle. Consequently, it’s more likely to develop cracks over time.
- Poor Maintenance Practices
Another common cause of cracked heat exchangers is poor maintenance practices. For instance, if you don’t clean or maintain your furnace regularly, the heat exchanger is likely to develop soot buildup.
This buildup can cause the furnace heat exchanger to overheat and eventually crack.
For this reason, if you want to avoid dealing with a cracked heat exchanger in the future, be sure to follow through with proper maintenance practices!
- Repeat Heating and Cooling
The alternating process of heating and cooling can also cause a cracked heat exchanger. This is because during the cooling process, the heat exchanger metallic walls contract. During heating, these walls expand.
After some time, this process will cause the component’s walls to be weak and might eventually lead to cracks.
How to Prevent Cracked Heat Exchangers
Now that you know the signs, causes, and effects of a cracked heat exchanger in the furnace, do you know how to prevent it?
Here are some tips:
- Have Your Furnace Inspected Regularly
This is probably the most effective way of preventing the cracking of a heat exchanger.
By having your furnace regularly inspected by a trained professional, you can quickly identify any potential issues and address them before they cause major problems. It’s also important for you to have your heating systems repaired immediately if problems are found.
- Operate Your Furnace at Moderate Temperatures
As we’ve seen, operating your furnace at high temperatures can lead to cracks in the heat exchanger. So, to avoid this problem, be sure to keep your furnace at moderate temperatures.
This will also help you save on energy costs!