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Cracked Heat Exchangers: Causes, Solutions, and Prevention

heating repair Broken Arrow OK

The heat exchanger in your furnace is one of the most important components. Its job is to contain the combustion process and prevent deadly carbon monoxide fumes from seeping into your home.  But what happens when the heat exchanger itself cracks?

There are a few signs that indicate a cracked heat exchanger, and it’s important to be on the lookout for them. A furnace with a cracked heat exchanger can pose a serious safety hazard, so it’s important to know what to look for and how to get heating repair Broken Arrow OK as soon as possible. 

What is a Heat Exchanger?

A heat exchanger is a device that transfers heat from one fluid to another. In the context of furnaces, the two fluids are typically air and gas. The heat exchanger’s job is to transfer the heat from the burning gas to the air that is circulated throughout your home.

Heat exchangers are metal plates that are stacked on top of each other and cooled by circulating air. As the gas burns, it heats up the metal plates. The circulating air then passes over the metal plates, absorbing the heat and warming up in the process.

Why Do Heat Exchangers Crack?

Heat exchangers can crack for a variety of reasons—and with that, you may need to call for heating repair Broken Arrow OK. One common reason is corrosion, which can be caused by a variety of factors such as the type of fluid passing through the exchanger, the pH level of the fluid, and the presence of certain contaminants.

Over time, the metal plates in your furnace’s heat exchanger will start to corrode. This corrosion will eventually create small cracks in the metal plates. These cracks will allow combustion gases to escape from the furnace and into your home’s breathing air. And we all know that breathing in combustion gases is bad for your health!

Another common cause of cracking is thermal fatigue. Thermal fatigue occurs when a material is subjected to repeated cycling between high and low temperatures. This can cause tiny cracks to develop in the metal, which can eventually grow into larger cracks that can lead to failure which may lead to heating repair Broken Arrow OK.

Other causes of heat exchanger failure include manufacturing defects, misalignment or vibration, and impact damage.

Signs of a Cracked Heat Exchanger

You’ll know if your furnace’s heat exchanger is cracked when you start seeing some visible signs. If you notice any of the following, it’s time to call in a professional HVAC technician for an inspection and heating repair Broken Arrow OK.

  • Your furnace is older than 20 years. Over time, metal fatigues and becomes weaker, which makes it more susceptible to cracking. 
  • You have discontinued using your furnace for an extended period of time (for example, if you close up your home for the winter). When metal sits unused for too long, it can become brittle and crack more easily.
  • You notice any physical damage to your furnace or its components. This could include dents, scratches, or signs of corrosion.
  • You’ve been having problems with strange noises coming from your furnace. These could be popping sounds, bangs, or even whistles. These noises are usually caused by metal expanding and contracting as it heats up and cools down—but they can also be indicative of a crack in the heat exchanger itself.
  • You see soot or debris around your furnace (on its exterior surface or inside near the burners). This could be an indication that your heat exchanger has already begun cracking and that combustion gases are beginning to escape into your home.
  • Your CO detectors sound an alarm or you experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, confusion, or fainting when you’re near your furnace. These symptoms could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning, which is incredibly dangerous—and often indicative of a cracked heat exchanger.

Diagnosing a Cracked Heat Exchanger

The only way to know for sure if your heat exchanger is cracked is to have a professional inspect it. They will use a tool called a borescope, which is inserted into the heat exchanger through an inspection port.

The borescope has a tiny camera that allows the technician to see inside the heat exchanger and look for cracks.  If they find cracks, you will call for either heating repair Broken Arrow OK or a replacement.  

Repairing or Replacing a Cracked Heat Exchanger

If your heat exchanger is cracked, you will need to have it repaired or replaced. In some cases, the crack can be welded shut, but this isn’t always possible depending on the size and location of the crack.

In most cases, the entire heat exchanger will need to be replaced. This is not a DIY job—you will need to hire a professional heating repair Broken Arrow OK contractor to do it. Replacing a heat exchanger is not an inexpensive repair, but it’s necessary to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

How Often Do Heat Exchangers Crack? 

With proper maintenance and a little luck, your heat exchanger should last many years. But eventually, all heat exchangers will succumb to the inevitable forces of aging and wear and tear. So, how often do heat exchangers crack? 

The lifespan of a heat exchanger depends on a number of factors, including the quality of the materials used in its construction, the manufacturing process, the environment in which it operates, and the way it’s maintained. 

In general, however, most heat exchangers will last for 10-15 years before they need to be replaced. Of course, this is just an average – some heat exchangers will last much longer, while others may develop problems after just a few years of service. 

How Can I Prevent My Heat Exchangers from Cracking?

Unfortunately, heat exchangers are prone to cracks due to the extreme temperatures they endure on a daily basis. If a crack does occur, it’s important to call for heating repair Broken Arrow OK as soon as possible by a qualified HVAC technician.

In the meantime, here are five ways you can prevent heat exchanger cracks:

1. Replace Your Filter Regularly

If your filter is dirty, it puts additional strain on your heat exchanger and can cause it to crack. To prevent this, be sure to change your filter every one to three months—more often if you have pets or live in a dusty area.

2. Keep the Area Around Your Heat Exchanger Clear

Your heat exchanger needs adequate airflow to function properly and prevent cracking. So, be sure to keep the area around it clear of dust, dirt, and other debris. If your heat exchanger is located in a hard-to-reach place, consider hiring a professional to clean it for you.

3. Schedule Annual Maintenance

One of the best ways to prevent heat exchanger cracks is to schedule annual maintenance with a qualified HVAC technician. During maintenance, your technician will inspect your heat exchanger for any signs of wear and tear and make any necessary repairs before they become serious problems.

4. Avoid Using Your HVAC System When It’s Cold Outside

If possible, avoid using your HVAC system when it’s cold outside as this puts additional strain on your heat exchanger and can cause it to crack. 

If you need to use your HVAC system in cold weather, be sure to set the temperature no lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage.

5. Avoid Sudden Temperature Changes

Sudden temperature changes—like turning on your furnace after leaving it off all summer—can put stress on the metal components of your furnace, including the heat exchanger. 

To avoid this problem, slowly ramp up the temperature on your thermostat over the course of a few days before winter weather hits. That way, you won’t have to worry about putting undue stress on your furnace when you really need it most.

6. Upgrade Your HVAC System

If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, it may be time for an upgrade. Newer models are designed with better materials that can withstand the rigors of daily use better than older models—meaning they’re less likely to develop cracks over time.

Are You at Risk of a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

A cracked heat exchanger can be a serious issue for any homeowner with a furnace. Not only can it lead to costly repairs, but it can also be dangerous for your family if it allows combustion gases to escape into your home’s breathing air. 

To avoid these problems, be sure to have your furnace inspected by a certified HVAC technician every year.

Act now before it’s too late! Taking action quickly can help prevent further damage and keep your family safe from harm.

Call Air Solutions at (918) 228 – 6138 for heating repair Broken Arrow OK

Whether your furnace is on the fritz or you need to install a new one, Air Solutions has been providing reliable furnace repair services in Broken Arrow, OK and the surrounding areas for more than 23 years. We have trained technicians who will do all of this work so it doesn’t take up time from other important aspects of your life.

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