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Is My Heat Exchanger Cracked?

Only a trained technician will be able to confirm whether or not your heat exchanger is cracked. You won’t be able to see a problem with the heat exchanger, since it’s inside your furnace. Instead, you would need to disassemble the system for a thorough inspection, and that’s not a DIY job.

Why Should I Care if I Have a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

It may seem like your furnace is still working fine even though the heat exchanger is cracked, but if you keep running the system without repairing the damaged part, it can lead to illness — it can even be fatal.

How it Happens

The heat exchanger goes through many expansion and contraction cycles in its lifetime. Though designed for this, the metal can become stressed and start to crack. This crack will eventually expand to the point where the flue gases mix with the air you breathe, instead of being properly vented to the outside.

Signals and Symptoms

When harmful gases like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide leak out of the furnace and into your home, you and your family can get very sick (infants and the elderly are most vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning). Headache, confusion, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and nausea are common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure. Since it’s odorless, colorless, and invisible, this gas is often referred to as the “silent killer”.

If you don’t have them already, ask your service technician about installing low-level carbon monoxide detection devices.

What Do I Do if I think My Heat Exchanger is Cracked?

The answer is simple: Call a professional to come and assess the situation. In the meantime, you should turn off your furnace so that further gases are not released into your home.

The only way to really know if your heat exchanger is cracked (apart from looking for potential warning signs) is to conduct a combustion gas analysis. A technician will conduct this test, and based on their findings, they’ll be able to tell you whether or not your heat exchanger needs to be replaced.

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