During the cold winter months, you need a working furnace to keep your Richmond Hill home and family comfortable. While you rely on your furnace, it relies on a functional heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is one of the furnace’s most important parts, and issues can lead to mechanical breakdowns and safety risks. In this guide, we will discuss how heat exchangers work and what can go wrong with them.

What Is a Heat Exchanger?

All furnaces contain heat exchangers. To create the heat that warms your home in the winter, a gas furnace combusts fuel in a closed chamber to generate heat for your home. Gas is the most common type of fuel for a furnace, but other types exist. You can also get a furnace that runs on electricity instead of gas. However, gas furnaces tend to produce hotter heat than electric furnaces.

The mixture of combustion fumes and fuel is dangerous to breathe. Therefore, the heat exchanger prevents this mixture from coming together. It creates a wall between the combustion chamber and the blower motor, which moves heated air through air ducts and throughout the home.

As the exchanger is heated, air moves across its surface on the opposite side. Then, the heated air is routed through the ductwork. To work correctly and keep exhaust gases from leaking out, the heat exchanger must be thoroughly sealed. Unfortunately, that’s where most problems start.

What Are the Most Common Problems With Heat Exchangers?

While most of us think that metal is unchanging and solid, heat has a significant effect on objects made of this material. As a heat exchanger gets hot, its metal expands. When a furnace switches off, the metal cools, contracting back to its previous shape.

After years of expansion and contraction, even the strongest metals will become weak. With time, the metal in a heat exchanger will turn brittle, and it’ll be more likely to snap, crack, and break. That’s why, in some cases, you may hear popping and snapping sounds coming from the home’s furnace.

When a heat exchanger wears out, it no longer forms a seal that keeps exhaust gases from contaminating the air you breathe. That’s a big issue as this air may contain carbon monoxide and other harmful gases.

How Damaged Heat Exchangers Emit Carbon Monoxide

In most instances, the gases coming from a furnace don’t contain much carbon monoxide — it’s not a common byproduct of the combustion process. For carbon monoxide to come from a heat exchanger, two things must happen. Either the exchanger has an air leak or a crack or the system is combusting gas improperly.

Given the risks associated with carbon monoxide, the CDC recommends that sources of the gas be dealt with as quickly as possible. If your furnace’s heat exchanger is cracked, call us immediately.

Preventing Heat Exchanger Issues

Richmond Hill homeowners do have ways to ensure that their gas furnaces’ heat exchangers continue to work effectively and safely. First, schedule regular tune-ups. One of our technicians will inspect your gas furnace to verify that the heat exchanger is still in working condition. Secondly, know when it’s time to replace the part. The average heat exchanger lasts between 10 and 20 years, and at about the 15-year mark, it’s a good idea to consider a replacement. Finally, choose a professional installer. It’s possible for a heat exchanger to become damaged due to improper installation methods. That’s why we recommend leaving the job to the professionals.

It’s important to recognize the signs of a malfunctioning heat exchanger. If it’s damaged or cracked, have it replaced as soon as possible. Changing flame colors are another telltale sign. A functional furnace should create a steady-burning blue flame. Finally, if there’s soot buildup inside or outside the heat exchanger, now is a good time to replace it. You want to prevent carbon monoxide from becoming a major risk to your home and family.

Book an Inspection With Us

Since 1980, Galbreath Air has served the residents of Richmond Hill and the surrounding areas. Galbreath Air is a family-owned business, striving to provide customers with excellent service. Our trained technicians provide service for the repair, maintenance, and installation of heating and cooling systems. In addition, we offer indoor air quality, duct cleaning, ductwork, and duct sealing services. If you are experiencing problems with your furnace, contact Galbreath Air in Richmond Hill today.