Before we get started, we want to say that furnaces are not inherently dangerous. In fact, modern furnaces are built with more safety features today than ever before. However, when you don’t properly take care of your furnace, particularly a gas-powered one, it can become dangerous.
Furnaces are powerful, and a top choice for homeowners throughout Hagerstown and beyond. For climates like ours, they’re the perfect system. They’re cost-effective and a superior choice for many homeowners. They have a number of important components that must be cared for, though, with one of them being the heat exchanger. A cracked heat exchanger is the potential furnace danger were about to discuss below.
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
The heat exchanger is the part of your furnace tasked with providing heat to the air that the blower fan sends through the ventilation system and then into your home. It’s a clamshell-shaped metal chamber, and there’s a series of them, typically arranged in rows, within your heating system. The heat exchangers are where hot combustion gas from the burners collects, in order to provide heat from your home.
The combustion gas heats up the metal walls of the heat exchangers. Then, the blower fan of your furnace blows air over the heat exchangers so that air can pick up the heat, then get distributed into your home. The heat exchangers are, therefore, the only thing standing between the combustion gases and your indoor air.
You’re probably starting to see why a cracked heat exchanger can be a danger, right?
What Causes a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
The heat exchangers of your furnace undergo a lot of stress throughout the years. Each time they get heated up, the metal expands. Over time, the constant expansion of the metal weakens it, and this leads to corrosion.
As you can probably guess, this is a bigger risk in an aging furnace than it is a newer one, in addition to ill-maintained furnaces.
Skipping your furnace maintenance session allows the system’s components to get covered in dirt and grime. If the burners get too caked up with dirt, it’s hard for the jets to ignite, and when they do, it will cause the furnace to rattle a bit, which increases the risk of damage to its interior components, including the heat exchangers.
The Danger of a Cracked Heat Exchanger
The average homeowner won’t usually be able to see cracks in a heat exchanger, nor should a homeowner ever try to access the heat exchangers. The cracks are microscopic, and practically invisible to the naked eye when the heat exchanger is cooled. In fact, you could likely pour water into a cracked heat exchanger that’s cooled off and not see a drop leak through.
But when the hot combustion gases—with the most harmful of these gases being carbon monoxide (CO)—heat up the metal walls of the heat exchangers, the cracks open up and potentially leak the gas into your indoor air.
When people are exposed to too much carbon monoxide, it can cause nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, and much more. In severe cases, it even causes fatalities. We really cannot stress how important it is to avoid this problem!