Gas-powered furnaces are not inherently dangerous appliances. This is something we want to clarify right away! We aren’t looking to panic you just because you choose to heat your home with a gas-powered furnace. But like any other powerful appliance in your home that uses gas, hazards can happen if it’s not well cared for.
When a gas-powered system isn’t well cared for, you risk one component failure in particular you never want to have—a cracked heat exchanger. This is most likely to happen with an aging heater (10-15 years old or older). For this reason we recommend looking into a replacement once your furnace has reached about a decade. Routine maintenance will help you avoid this problem, but it’s still a problem you should be aware of.
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
This is a vital component of your natural gas-powered furnace—the area where the heat form the combustion gas actually transfers to the air form the blower fan that moves it through your ductwork and your vents.
This combustion gas shouldn’t come into direct contact with the air, otherwise unhealthy fumes will wind up entering your living space. Ideally, the combustion gas enters your heat exchangers, which is a metal clam-shaped chamber within the furnace. The heat from the combustion gasses raises the temp of the meatal, and as the air form the blower passes through it, heat transfers to it. Essentially, the heat exchanger is actually responsible for your furnace heating your home.
What’s Wrong with a Cracked Heat Exchanger?
A cracked heat exchanger enables exhaust fumes from inside the component to leak into the indoor air. The most toxic of these exhaust fumes is carbon monoxide. In the best case, this tasteless and odorless gas can make household members ill. In the worst case, it can lead to fatalities.
The most likely cause for this problem is corrosion associated with old age. The reaction between the combustion gas and metal over the years can create a weakening of the metal. This is why it’s important to watch for this problem in an older furnace. Even the smallest crack is a problem, as it expands wider with heat.
If you discover a clicking noise coming from the heater after it shuts down, you may likely have a cracked heat exchanger. It’s very important to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home as well. This is essential to ensuring that your home is as safe as possible. If your carbon monoxide detectors do go off, then you should exit your home and call for emergency services ASAP. This isn’t something you just want to turn off and go back to your day!
Remember, when your HVAC system needs repair, it’s always best to call in a professional, no matter what type of repair need it is. Only a trained and experienced pro will be able to make reliable repairs that will leave your furnace in good shape and will help you avoid emergencies in the future.