With winter in full force and cold weather now the norm in our neck of the woods, your furnace is going to be seeing daily use for months to come. You can’t always anticipate when a breakdown will occur, but they’re reasonably common this time of year and some of them can be quite dire.
Take the issue of a cracked heat exchanger, for example. It’s a dangerous situation that can actually shut your heater down, and if it happens to your system, you need to call in a repair service immediately. It’s especially prevalent in older systems where the warranty has expired and wear and tear have taken a huge toll. Here’s a quick look at what it all means.
The Purpose of a Heat Exchanger
Forced-air gas furnaces rank among the most common heating systems in the area because they’re effective and don’t cost much to use. The gas fuels a series of burners that heat the air, but burners themselves can transfer the heat of the flame to the air very efficiently.
That’s where the heat exchanger comes in. It’s basically just a shaped piece of metal placed between the burners and the air they need to warm. The metal distributes the heat more evenly and allows the air to warm much more efficiently. The heat exchanger also channels toxic byproduct from the gas – trace vapors that can be harmful to the home – safely into a venting pipe and outside of the house.
What Happens When It Cracks?
Heat exchangers normally have no moving parts and are made of durable material, which means they can last a long time without experiencing any problems. But time does take its toll and years of heating the metal up and cooling it down as you operate your heater can take a toll. Eventually, that may cause fissures or even cracks, and unfortunately, the results can be disastrous. Not only will it fail to transfer heat effectively – raising your monthly bills by a huge amount and possibly rendering the heater unable to function – but it can release toxic gasses into your home as well.
Many furnaces have automatic shut-off features that will simply prevent the system from turning on if the risk of gas exposure is present. (If yours doesn’t, you might want to invest in a carbon monoxide detector or similar product to alert you to any danger.) The bad news is that the furnace will likely stay shut off until the problem is solved, and in most cases a cracked furnace means replacing the unit instead of just repairing it.
What Do I Do?
If you have an older furnace whose warranty has expired, keep a close eye out for signs that the heat exchanger has cracked. If it has – hopefully because an early warning system has been triggered – then turn off the power to it (even if the system isn’t currently running) and call in a repair service.
For quality repairs throughout Salt Lake City, UT, call on At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air!