What’s the Danger of a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Household?

What's the Danger of a Cracked Heat Exchanger in Your Household?Inspecting your furnace for a cracked heat exchanger is a critical safety measure. It’s one of the reasons why an annual furnace checkup is vital. Instead of merely saving you money by increasing furnace efficiency and reducing operating costs, however, the annual safety check could also save the lives of you and your family.

Fires resulting from furnace malfunctions are rare. Statistically, the greater safety risk comes from potential exposure to deadly carbon monoxide (CO) gas. A byproduct of the combustion process, CO is produced when natural gas is burned inside the combustion chamber of the furnace. Here’s how a cracked heat exchanger can pose a threat in an otherwise safe heating system:

Natural gas from the burner in the combustion chamber ignites, creating a bright blue flame. The burner flame heats the tubes of the heat exchanger inside the chamber, which transfers heat to air flowing through the tubes and into your heating ductwork.

An intact heat exchanger safely contains combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, as they are exhausted through the furnace vent pipe. Should a crack occur in the heat exchanger, however, these gases may leak from the combustion chamber into the system airflow and disperse throughout your house.

Cracks may appear in a heat exchanger due to continuous expansion and contraction of the metal during heating and cooling cycles over the years, or because of rust or corrosion. As part of an annual furnace check-up, a qualified technician will visually inspect the heat exchanger for cracks or other defects. The technician will also test the furnace airflow for traces of carbon monoxide gas.

In many locales, if a cracked heat exchanger is discovered, the technician is required by law to “red tag” the furnace: shut it down and disable it so it cannot be restarted until proper repair is completed. It’s a serious step to take, but a cracked heat exchanger is a serious threat to your health and safety.

Don’t neglect an annual furnace checkup including inspection for a cracked heat exchanger. Contact Paitson Bros., Terre Haute’s premier source for heating and cooling expertise since 1922.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Terre Haute, Indiana about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about cracked heat exchangers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 812-645-6859.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Mdesignstudio/Shutterstock”

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