Homes located in areas that experience very cold winters usually rely on natural gas furnaces to generate heat. A natural gas furnace can produce a higher volume of heat at a lower price than its competitors.
Well-maintained heating systems can reliably heat your home for years, but it is important to keep in mind that any natural gas appliance has the potential to develop serious safety hazards. A cracked heat exchanger in your natural gas furnace could have devastating consequences for you and your family.
Role of a Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is one of the most important components within a natural gas furnace. This component is responsible for actually heating the air that is circulated through your home.
A combustion process helps to heat the walls of your furnace by raising the temperature of the heat exchanger. Air from the surrounding environment is then circulated around the exchanger, causing the temperature of the air to rise.
How Cracks Occur
Heat exchangers that are found within natural gas furnaces are made from metal and metal alloys. The combustion process causes the metal shell of the heat exchanger to expand when heated and contract when cooled. This expansion and contraction process creates stress points within the metal.
Eventually, these stress points fracture and cracks are formed. A heat exchanger can also begin to crack as a result of corrosion. The interaction of the natural gas and the metal during combustion can corrode your furnace's heat exchanger and weaken the metal. Weak metal is more susceptible to cracking over time.
It's essential that you are able to recognize the signs of a cracked heat exchanger quickly so that you can address the problem before serious injury occurs. A cracked heat exchanger allows carbon monoxide, a deadly gas, to escape from your furnace.
Replacing a damaged heat exchanger immediately is the only way to eliminate carbon monoxide leaks. Listen closely for a clicking sound coming from your furnace after the blower turns off. This clicking is often caused by gas seeping through cracks in the heat exchanger.
You can also conduct a visual inspection for signs or corrosion or visible cracks as you evaluate the condition of your natural gas furnace.
Maintaining your furnace's heat exchanger is important on many levels. A functioning heat exchanger can improve the efficiency of your heating system. Intact heat exchangers also allow the combustion process to occur without gas leakage inside your home.
If you believe your heat exchange is cracked or otherwise damaged, contact a furnace repair professional as soon as possible.