If you are a frequent furnace owner, you’ve likely heard of a heat exchanger. It is one of the major components of your furnace. In fact, it could be the very most important component, as it is where the heat is produced. This big contraption, whether it be made of steel, cast iron, or metal, gets hots and a blower motor blows the hot air it produces into the home. Think of a traditional fire with a fan behind it. That’s basically what your furnace is, just more controlled and safer. That is until the heat exchanger develops cracks. Since gas and air are mixed in the heat exchanger, a leak in this device could be detrimental to the safety of your home and its residents.
Being that you are located in New York it is highly likely that you have a furnace rather than a heat pump since the temperatures are usually well into the teens and below. A heat pump just wouldn’t be effective. That being said, you’ll want to keep an eye out for your heat exchanger, especially if your unit is ten years or older. This is usually right around the age that the device breaks down. Here are some common signs from your friendly, local HVAC tech to keep an eye out for.
Furnace Flame Problems
Since the heat exchanger is where the fuel and air are mixed, a malfunction could be indicated in the production of the flame. Your flame should burn a specific color, depending on the amount of gas and air that it’s getting. A good flame with the correct mixture of gas and air should burn bright blue. If you notice that the flame is burning orange, yellow, or reddish, it could be a good indication that something is going on with the fuel/air mixture. Yellow especially can indicate that your heat exchanger is cracked. Your local HVAC tech says, “Keep an eye out for this!”
If your home has been present with strong and pungent aromas as of late, it is an indication you are dealing with a cracked heat exchanger. A cracked or malfunctioning heat exchanger is highly known for producing noticeable, nauseating smells. This is because it is leaking gas, chemicals, and carbon monoxide into the home. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer and it has been responsible for the deaths of many families. Your local HVAC tech says that a carbon monoxide detector is a must with any gas-burning device.
Soot is always associated with gas-burning appliances. Unfortunately, there are no two ways around it. Soot will also be present in gas-burning devices. However, these devices should be sealed in a manner that prevents the soot from escaping. If you notice soot all over the home or your furnace, it likely means that it is escaping via the heat exchanger due to cracks and crevices that shouldn’t be present.
Has someone in the family that is normally healthy been producing flu-like symptoms? Headaches, skin irritations, disorientation, or nausea? If this is the case, there is a change you are dealing with a cracked heat exchanger. As you already learned, a cracked heat exchanger means that toxic chemicals are been flushed into the home. Not something that you want.
A cracked heat exchanger is not something you want to play around with. There are no quick fixes or band-aids. If your heat exchanger is cracked, it’ll need replacing, no two ways about it. It is unsafe, otherwise, trying to patch here and there. Any HVAC in New York worth a grain of salt will likely tell you the same thing. To make matters even worse, sometimes the replacement of a heat exchanger might be more costly than changing out the entire unit.