Here’s Everything You Should Know About Heat Exchangers

Here's Everything You Should Know About Heat ExchangersIn gas-fired furnaces, heat exchangers are the most critical components. A furnace burner flame does not directly heat air that flows into your ductwork and warms your house. Instead, the burner heats the heat exchanger, which in turn heats air flowing through a passageway incorporated in the component. Thus, heat exchangers effectively separate the burner/combustion chamber from the heated airflow. This design not only ensures rapid, consistent heating, it also seals combustion byproducts — including deadly carbon monoxide gas — out of the airflow that circulates through your home. Instead, these vapors are safely exhausted up the furnace vent.

Hidden Defects Happen

Heat exchangers are made for long-lasting structural integrity. That’s why many manufacturers today guarantee the component for the life of the furnace. Still, defects may occur. With every furnace burner cycle, the heat exchanger rapidly heats and cools. Over many years, repetitive expansion and contraction of the metal could potentially crack the component. Also, water vapor condensing inside the exchanger may trigger rust and corrosion.

Stay Safe Every Year

Cracks or corrosion in a heat exchanger could allow dangerous carbon monoxide gas to seep into the furnace airflow and contaminate the house. The best protection against this hazard is an annual furnace tune-up by a qualified HVAC technician. This standard preventive maintenance procedure includes visual inspection of the heat exchanger for defects, as well as testing furnace airflow for the presence of carbon monoxide gas.

Repair or Replace?

A furnace with a defective heat exchanger is dangerous and must usually be shut down and disabled — it’s called “red tagging” — for the safety of residents in the house. If the furnace hasn’t yet exceeded half of its expected lifespan (most last 15 to 20 years), replacing this very expensive component alone may be a viable option. However, if the unit is past the halfway point, the high cost of heat exchanger replacement is rarely worth it. Upgrading to an all-new furnace is usually the better alternative.

Since 1922, the heating and cooling professionals at Paitson Bros. have made your safety top priority. Contact us for more information about heat exchangers.

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 heat exchangers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 812-645-6859.

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    Jeff Paitson Jeff Paitson is a third generation business owner who continues to run the business with the same values that have been passed down from previous generations since 1922.

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