Typical Problems With a Heat Exchanger

Typical Problems With a Heat ExchangerWhen you schedule your annual furnace maintenance this fall, one of the primary targets for inspection will be the heat exchanger. So what is a heat exchanger, why is it important to have it inspected each year, and what can go wrong with it?

What Are Heat Exchangers?

Simply put, the heat exchanger in your furnace heats your air. It usually consists of a set of looping coils or tubes that run through the air flow side of the furnace. In combustion furnaces, some kind of fuel or energy — oil, propane or natural gas — powers burners that produce the heat. The fuel waste byproduct flows through the vents and is exhausted, while a blower or fan blows air over the heated side of the coils. As the air warms, it is then channeled into the duct system and distributed into the home.

What Can Go Wrong With Heat Exchangers?

Although the heat exchangers in most modern furnaces have abundant safety features, they can crack over time. All that heating and cooling, expanding and contracting the metal, can cause it to develop thin, hard-to-see cracks. When that happens, the fuel used in the combustion process gives off carbon monoxide, which may leak into the home. CO is deadly so a crack means the exchanger will either have to be replaced (an expensive proposition) or you’ll have to get a new furnace.

To prevent dangerous leaks in your home, schedule an annual professional inspection. Your HVAC technician has endoscopic cameras can perform special tests that detect even hairline cracks. Also, maintain carbon monoxide detectors mounted at strategic points.

Another common problem with heat exchangers is rust, caused by condensation, which can create a hole. A hole or a crack in the exchanger may cause the burner flame to roll out the front of the furnace whenever the fan comes on, as there is no barrier between the circulating air and the burner flame. This can be a fire hazard.

Want to know more about your heat exchanger? Contact Hartman Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning. We serve Fort Wayne and the surrounding area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in New Haven, Indiana and surrounding Fort Wayne area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about heat exchangers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 260-376-2961. 

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    Richard Hartman Richard Hartman has worked in many capacities: service, installations, and production of sheet metal since the early years of the business.... More »