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Basic Guide To Heat Exchangers & What To Do When They Go Bad

gas heater exchangerGas-fired furnaces have a heat exchanger inside which operates in unison with the blower to heat your home. There are sometimes problems with the heat exchanger that makes them to go bad.

When the heat exchanger fails, you will have to make a decision about whether to replace the heat exchanger itself or replace the entire furnace. At that point, you will want to make a wise decision.

There will come a time when you must make that decision as the furnace ages, so learn a little from this basic guide about heat exchangers from our Richmond heating pros at Madison HVAC/R Inc.

What The Heat Exchanger Does

The heat exchanger is the heart of your gas furnace. This is an enclosed system where the cooler air inside your home is drawn through and forced over a network of heating tubes or coils. The gas fuel creates combustion which heats the metal tubes or coils. After the air from your home is drawn over the coils and is superheated by the process, it is then forced through the ductwork throughout the home.

Common Causes Of Heat Exchanger Failure

The heat exchanger uses fuel for combustion to heat the tubes or coils. This area gets extremely hot. The heat exchanger can crack or develop holes due to the constant expansion and contraction of the metal that happens during heating. Over time, that movement makes the metal weak.

This is a common heat exchanger problem. If the air inside the home is then drawn in where it shouldn’t be, more carbon monoxide is produced and can then leak through cracks or small holes.

Another common cause of heat exchanger failure is poor installation. The furnace must be installed according to manufacturer’s instructions or there will be problems. Sometimes, the issue is bad manufacturing design or build, so it’s important to keep up with the maintenance to be sure that the problem is defective equipment and not lack of maintenance.

Testing The Heat Exchanger For Leaks

Every homeowner with a gas furnace should have the heat exchanger tested and inspected for leaks. This is important to determine the condition of this most vital part of the furnace. It’s also vital for your safety.

Carbon monoxide poisoning and gas leaks are serious, so have your furnace tested before every heating season or more often if you prefer. You should also install carbon monoxide detectors near your gas furnace. A heat exchanger crack is not always fully visible and the detector will alarm you if there’s a leak.

What To Do When The Heat Exchanger Goes Bad

There are basically two options when the heat exchanger fails. Either replace the heat exchanger or replace the old furnace. Remember that the heat exchanger is a large part of the furnace, so it may be time to go ahead with replacing it if the unit has aged.

The heat exchanger inspection will uncover the condition of the entire furnace. If it looks like you will face continual repairs, it’s time to replace the furnace. If not, replacing the heat exchanger will extend the life of the furnace. Your heating technician should give you a good recommendation about repairs vs. replacement.

If you have questions or need help with your heat exchanger in Richmond, please call Madison HVAC/R Inc. at 859-248-1280 or complete our online request form.

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