If you have a gas powered furnace, like many other homeowners in our area, and it has a cracked heat exchanger, then yes, you should be concerned! Gas-powered heaters are extremely popular and for good reason. Gas is a more affordable fuel type than electric, and furnaces are highly efficient at keeping your entire home warm. They produce a large amount of heat and for that reason are relied on by many.
But it is important to remember to take care of that heater, and to know that any natural gas appliance can develop safety hazards without that care. We aren’t saying this to scare you into paying for a service you might not need, but rather to make you aware of the need for regular Tacoma, WA heating services, such as preventive maintenance. It’s maintenance that will drastically reduce your risk of dealing with a cracked heat exchanger at all.
What a Heat Exchanger Is
The heat exchanger is the component that allows your furnace to actually heat the air traveling through its ductwork. When the burners of the furnace ignite, they generate hot combustion gas, which collects inside the heat exchanger. This is a metal chamber, or series of chambers, that typically resembles a clam-shell shape.
The hot combustion gas heats up the metal walls, and then the blower fan of the furnace cycles on and sends air around the exchanger, where it picks up heat from the furnace wall, then continues through the ventilation system. Ideally, this process will occur with the combustion gasses never coming in contact with the air in your home. Once the heating process is done, the combustion byproducts in the heat exchanger are vented out of the system through a flue, and the gas is released harmlessly into the outdoor air.
The Danger of a Cracked Heat Exchanger
The metal of the heat exchanger expands and contracts as it heats and cools, and the stress of this will eventually cause a crack to form. Corrosion from the reaction between the combustion gas and metal (usually because of improper venting) can also weaken the metal to the point where cracks form.
These cracks are typically small, and not even visible to the average homeowner. But as the exchangers expand with heat, they open up enough to allow some of the combustion gasses to escape and enter the airflow. This means these harmful gasses will be sent through your home.
“How Do I Know If I Have a Cracked Heat Exchanger?”
This is of course a very important question to ask. As we said above, maintenance will reduce your risk, but if you have an aging furnace this is still going to be a danger. Be sure to listen for clicking noises coming from the furnace when the blower shuts off. If you hear this, be sure to contact a professional ASAP and let them know what’s going on.
Another thing to watch out for is any signs of corrosion anywhere on your furnace—in most cases this is going to indicate that it’s about time to replace your furnace.