The heat exchanger on your heating and cooling system is one of the most important components. When your heat exchanger fails, it can create a potentially dangerous situation, and you might not even know that it has happened. Let’s see why it’s important to have regular seasonal maintenance on your furnace.
What Is a Heat Exchanger?
Heat exchangers all perform the same function. They allow heat to pass from one liquid to another or from a liquid to a gas. In the case of a cooling system, the heat exchanger passes heat from the system to the outside air where it is dissipated. In a heating system, the heat exchanger brings heat to an area from the combustion chamber or heating coil. A system of blowers and ductwork distributes the heat to other rooms of the home.
The heat exchanger is a system of tubes that are designed to increase the surface area where the heat can be exchanged. The most common fluids found in residential heating systems are water, refrigerant, or a water and glycol solution. These systems are prone to moisture because air can hold more water as it heats, and it is released as the air cools in the form of condensation.
What Happens If Your Heat Exchanger Breaks?
If the heat exchanger is located outside of your home, it has the potential to freeze. When the liquid freezes, it expands and can crack the pipes. This can result in an expensive repair bill. However, if the heat exchanger in your furnace cracks or develops a leak, then it can cause a dangerous situation.
The heat exchanger in your furnace contains combustion by-products that can include carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases. If the heat exchanger loses its integrity, these gases can escape into the home. They can also be distributed through the ductwork. These colorless, odorless gases can cause significant physical issues and even death.
Why Does a Heat Exchanger Fail?
As you can see, making sure your heat exchanger is in good shape is important for getting the greatest efficiency from your furnace and preventing a potentially dangerous situation. Several factors can cause a heat exchanger to fail over time. One of these factors is age, and this is one component that can be expected to wear out over time.
Age and exposure to the corrosive gases of combustion can cause the heat exchanger to rust. As rust accumulates, it begins to crumble. Over time, the outside of the heat exchanger can become weak and crack. Another factor that causes heat exchangers to fail is the process of heating and cooling. Every time the heat exchanger heats up, the metal expands. The metal contracts as it cools. This continual heating and cooling can eventually stress the metal, which can cause it to crack.
Sometimes, your heat exchanger will give signs that it has a crack. You might experience strange smells or odors. You might notice that some rooms are not as warm as they used to be. If your heating bills suddenly go up, the heat exchanger can be to blame because the furnace must run longer to reach the desired temperature.
Another sign is if your carbon monoxide detectors go off. If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, you should exit the area and call someone right away. It takes very low levels of carbon monoxide to cause serious consequences. If this happens, IBBOTSON Heating & Air Conditioning Co. offers 24/7 emergency services, so you can call us any time.
What Should You Do If You Think Your Heat Exchanger Has Failed?
Sometimes, your heat exchanger will give you signs that it has failed, but other times the signs will be more subtle. That is why having seasonal furnace maintenance is so important. During service, our heating technicians have special techniques to detect the presence of a crack in your heat exchanger that cannot be seen on the outside. If they find a problem, they can recommend the best solution for your circumstances. A cracked heat exchanger does not always mean that you need a replacement, and factors like the age of the furnace and any other issues will determine the recommended remedy.
IBBOTSON Heating & Air Conditioning Co. serves Arlington Heights, IL, residents who need furnace installation, AC replacement, heating repair, and cooling maintenance services. We also provide indoor air quality services and can repair your water heater or boiler. Contact us if you need your heat exchanger inspected or you need to schedule regular maintenance.