Are you using a gas-powered furnace to provide your home and family with warmth this heating season? We wouldn’t be surprised if you are—the gas-powered furnace is one of the most popular heating system types on the market. This is especially true for our area—our winters require something with power!
Gas furnaces are very cost-efficient and an excellent option for most homeowners. But… there is a potential danger with them. Now, they are not inherently dangerous, but if you don’t take care of your gas-powered furnace properly, then it can become dangerous—risking your exposure to harmful combustion gases like carbon monoxide (CO).
This happens mostly in aging furnaces as a result of wear and tear, and corrosion. What happens is that the heat exchangers get damaged, and then subsequently leak that CO into your living space. Read on to learn more.
The Function of the Heat Exchanger
In order to understand why a cracked heat exchanger is bad news, it’s first helpful to understand what exactly a heat exchanger is. This component is responsible for actually heating the air which your blower fan sends through your ventilation system and then into your home. In other words, the heat exchanger is the part responsible for actually providing your home with heat, safely.
This component is a clam-shell-shaped metal chamber, and there are typically a series of them in your furnace. The hot combustion gas from the burners collects in the heat exchangers, raising the temperature of their metal walls. This makes the outside of the heat exchanger very hot. Then, the air blowing over the heat exchangers picks up that heat and distributes it into your home without letting gases like CO come into contact with your breathable air.
What Causes Heat Exchanger Damage?
Your furnace’s heat exchangers go through a lot of stress each winter, year after year. Each time they heat up, the metal expands, and when they cool down the metal contracts. This constant movement weakens the metal over the years, leading to eventual corrosion and cracks in the heat exchangers.
As we alluded to above, this is a higher risk for aging furnaces—that is, furnaces that are 10-15 years old. This can also be a big problem for furnaces that are not vented properly. If you have a home that was built before the 90s, then it’s a good idea to have your home inspected to ensure that venting is set up as it should be so you don’t run into this problem.
The Danger of a Cracked Heat Exchanger
It bears mentioning that a cracked heat exchanger is hard to spot for the naked eye. The cracks we’re talking about are not large—in fact, they’re microscopic. They open up when the metal expands as it heats up. When they do this, they leak out gases, as we mentioned above.
In an older or improperly vented furnace, this means that the gas can come into contact with the air that then comes through your vents, exposing your household occupants to the gas. CO exposure leads to hundreds of illnesses and even fatalities each year. This is not a problem you want to mess around with!
If you have an older furnace that hasn’t been professionally inspected in a year or more, it’s time to give us a call so we can check on your heat exchangers and more!