What is a Cracked Heat Exchanger and Why is it Dangerous?
A cracked heat exchanger means this component inside your furnace has a physical split in it. Since it’s one piece, and often made of ceramic, you can’t repair it. Meanwhile, the damage can cause a major health hazard in your home.
Hearing this news from your HVAC tech can mean a significant expense is coming your way. They’ve likely red-tagged your furnace. Red-tagged means they shut it off, and it can’t be turned back on a professional has made sure the system is safe for use.
And, unfortunately, that most likely requires a new unit altogether.
It’s expensive and stressful, but often necessary to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning — not that that makes things any easier.
Still, it’s important to understand what’s going on and why. This way, you can concentrate on keeping your home warm, comfortable, and safe.
In this blog, we’ll go over the dangers that come with this problem. And, we’ll also clue you into some common scams and how to avoid them.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions or if you think there’s a problem in your Havertown, PA, home, call or email us a Cipollone today. We’ll give you a thorough, accurate inspection and let you know exactly what’s happening.
What is a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
The heat exchanger is the part of your furnace that produces heat. When that part cracks, it means there’s a physical split in the piece through which air and other gases can escape.
And that’s why it’s such a big problem.
Your furnace produces heat through combustion. It burns whatever fossil fuel — gas or oil —- your system uses.
Along with the heat, this process also produces carbon monoxide, or CO. Most people today know that this colorless, odorless gas is lethal — and undetectable without special equipment.
People may start to feel a little nauseous or dizzy as they begin breathing in CO. However, it will eventually cause you to pass out and stop breathing.
If you’re sleeping when it sets in, you won’t wake up to notice any symptoms.
That’s why we all have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes now — and why you should have more than one, including a sensor near the furnace.
Without it, you won’t know it’s present in your home until too late.
Carbon Monoxide Leaks
So if your HVAC system always produces carbon monoxide, why isn’t it always a problem?
When everything is working correctly, that gas gets expelled safely through the exhaust. It never collects inside. Instead, it exits the house without ever leaving the system.
If your exchanger has a crack, however, the gas can now leak into your home. That’s why your HVAC shut down the system.
Why Do I Need a New Furnace?
With almost no exceptions, this problem means you need a new furnace. You can’t fix this component. It’s one big piece, so there’s no way to add anything to it or re-fasten anything. Even if we tried to seal it, there’s no guarantee it will hold.
Imagine dropping a coffee cup and shattering it. Sure, you can try gluing it back together. But, would you bet your life on nothing every leaking out of it?
The next logical question, then, is why don’t we replace the one part?
Well, along with safety concerns, there’s also the cost factor.
This component is deep inside the furnace. By the time we took the entire unit apart, removed the damaged piece, put in a new one, and reassembled it, you may as well buy a new one.
How Do I Know If I Have a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
Unfortunately, you can’t check for a cracked heat exchanger yourself. Since the component is deep inside the system, a visual inspection won’t do any good. And, most carbon monoxide leaks start slow, so your alarm may not go off right away.
The way HVAC professionals tell there’s a problem is by taking readings direct from the system. We use specialized equipment to check the exhaust and other factors.
If the readings are off, particularly the amount of CO it’s producing, we know there’s a problem.
So wait — you can’t see the problem for yourself. Instead, you’re relying on someone with professional equipment showing you readings you probably don’t understand.
How are you not getting scammed?
Well, the bad news is that you might be getting fooled. It’s actually pretty easy for a dishonest HVAC tech to make it seem like there’s an expensive problem when there’s really not one.
But, the good news is, you can avoid these scams with a little knowledge and preparation.
Avoiding Cracked Heat Exchanger Scams
You can avoid a cracked heat exchanger scam by:
- Working With Trusted Companies
- Getting a Second Opinion
- Asking to See the Damage
Let’s look more closely at these steps.
Working With Trusted Companies
First, make sure you can trust your tech by doing a little research before hiring a company for a tune-up or repair.
Make sure they have an A+ BBB rating and plenty of positive online reviews. And, the longer they’ve been in business, the better.
A company with no track record, no online presence, and no physical address could be a fly-by-night operation.
Getting a Second Opinion
You’re well within your rights to have another company look things over before making a huge investment!
Don’t be afraid to tell the first tech you want a second opinion. If he’s with a reputable company, he and his boss will understand. And, if they’re not, you probably won’t see them again after that.
Asking to See the Damage
You likely can’t see the crack while the unit’s still assembled. Occasionally, but not often, we can shine a light inside and spot it.
So, ask the tech if they will show you the crack once they remove the old furnace. And, ask if they’ll reassemble and re-install the old unit free of charge if there turns out to be no damage.
This strategy is usually enough to shake a scammer. At that point, it’s just not worth it to them.
And, of course, if you have a company you’ve worked with for years, and it has an excellent reputation, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting cheated.
If you think there’s a problem with your system, don’t wait until it gets worse or affects your health. Call John Cipollone today. We’ve worked in Havertown, the Main Line, Media, and other towns in the area for more than 60 years.