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Cracked Heat Exchangers in Your Furnace and How to Avoid Them

Gas furnaces are one of the most effective ways to provide comfort to your home in winter while saving money. (Natural gas is a less expensive energy source than electricity). However, there is some potential for health hazards with a gas furnace because of carbon monoxide leaks. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is a byproduct of the combustion of natural gas. It is also highly toxic. The most likely way for carbon monoxide to enter a home is through cracks in the heat exchanger of a furnace.

What’s a heat exchanger?

The heat exchanger is an essential component of a gas furnace. It’s the part of the furnace that actually heats up the air. The hot combustion gas from the burners enters the metal chambers of the heat exchanger, where it raises the temperature of the metal. The blower fan sends air around the exchanger, and the hot exchanger walls transfer heat into the air. The carbon monoxide leftover in the exchanger is safely vented out through a flue to the outside.

How does the exchanger become cracked?

Over time, the exposure of vapor in the combustion gas to the metal of the heat exchanger can create corrosion. The weakened metal will crack due to the stress of the metal expanding and contracting from temperature changes. The cracks will allow CO to escape and enter the air that is getting blown into the house.

How can I prevent this from happening?

The best way to keep your furnace running safely is to always schedule annual maintenance for it from professionals. You should have this service done in the fall before you start to use the furnace for the season—but it’s never too late to arrange for it. Technicians will detect areas of corrosion and cracking in the exchanger and arrange to replace the exchanger. In cases of a very old furnace, they will probably recommend a complete system replacement.

Please call Comfort Flow Heating in Eugene, OR to arrange for furnace maintenance, or any other furnace repair service you may need.

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