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Roadrunner Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing Blog

A Cracked Furnace Heat Exchanger: What You Should Know


There are a number of things that, over the years, could lead you to call our team for expert heating repair in Rio Rancho, NM or one of the surrounding communities.

For instance, the lubrication may have worn down on your blower motor fan. Or you might have uneven heating due to ductwork damage.

These are relatively minor issues and our team can fix them for you quickly and effectively. The best way to avoid emergency heating repair calls, however, is to have your system properly maintained each year.  Routine tune-ups can help you avoid serious problems, such as a cracked heat exchanger—which can be quite dangerous if neglected! Read on to learn more.

First Off, What Is a Heat Exchanger?

The name implies a lot, but it doesn’t really explain what exactly the heat exchanger is, right?

It’s a metal, clamshell-shaped component inside your furnace (and can also be found in water heaters and other types of heating systems) that actually makes it possible for the system to produce heat.

When the jets of your furnace come on, they fill the heat exchangers up with combustion gasses. These gasses are very hot, and work to heat up the metal walls of the heat exchangers. Then, the air from the blower fan travels over the heat exchangers, picking up heat on the way. That air keeps moving through your ventilation system—your ductwork—until it reaches your living space.

When the heating cycle is complete, the combustion gasses escape harmlessly into the outside atmosphere through a flue.

How Does a Heat Exchanger Get Cracked?

The metal of the heat exchangers expand and contract as they heat up and cool down during each heating cycle. Heaters accumulate a lot of wear and tear over the years, and this is part of it. That said, it’s worth mentioning that cracked heat exchangers are a more prevalent problem in aged furnaces (10-15 years old) than they are in newer systems. Still though, it’s an important problem to be aware of.  Corrosion can also occur in furnaces due to poor ventilation, which can impact a furnace of any age.

Something to keep in mind about heat exchanger damage is that it’s nearly impossible for the average homeowner to actually spot the damage. These cracks are very small, practically microscopic. They open up as the heat exchangers heat up, and then close when they cool back down. Even if you knew how to access the inside of your furnace and inspect it, you may not know you even have a cracked heat exchanger without having a professional check it out.

When It’s Time to Call in a Pro

First, we cannot stress enough how vital it is that you have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors installed in your home. Then if you have a cracked heat exchanger allowing this harmful combustion gas in, you’ll know right away. CO leads to hundreds of illnesses and even fatalities every year, which is why we’re so adamant about you avoiding heat exchanger damage.

Aside from paying attention to your CO detectors, you should call a professional if you hear excessive clicking as your furnace starts up and shuts down. As we said above, heat exchangers expand and contract as they heat up and cool down. As a result, it will make a clicking noise, which shouldn’t be ignored.

When you’re looking for quality and reliable heating services, look no further than Roadrunner Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. Give our number a call today!

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