Heat exchangers are the core of your home’s furnace. It is the metal wall or tubing that heats up when the burners are ignited. The inside of the heat exchanger allows the toxic flue gases to exhaust out through the furnace flue. When a problem occurs with the core of the furnace, it is a serious – and potentially dangerous situation.
Heat exchangers usually last anywhere between 15 and 20 years, but sometimes cracks may appear prematurely. This interferes with the normal mixture of air and gas. Incomplete combustion causes soot to form. If a crack develops in the heater core, there is a potential for flue gasses and carbon monoxide (CO) gas to not vent properly and leak inside the home. CO poisoning is cumulative – and deadly to occupants. (This is a reason why installing carbon monoxide detectors are a good idea.)
One way to detect a damaged heater core is to watch the flames on a gas furnace when the blower comes on. A cracked heat exchanger will allow air from the furnace blower to interfere with the flame. This may cause the flame to flutter or even roll out. When this happens, it trips a safety switch and shuts down the furnace. A furnace that continually shuts itself off is a good sign of trouble.
A visual inspection may reveal cracks, but most of the heat exchanger isn’t readily visible. Most cracks are detected by other means, such as by flashlight and telescoping mirror or by having a technician actually run a pressure change or water spray test.
When a heater core problem is detected, homeowners are often left wondering if they would be better off buying a brand new furnace or just replacing the cracked heater core?
The key is timing a furnace replacement is to do it when the furnace has gotten so old that it is costing you more money in operating costs than it would to just replace it. A cracked heater core repair is an expensive fix. If you have an older furnace or boiler, then you may want to consider buying a new furnace than to spend the money to replace the heater core.
If you do decide to replace the unit, this would be the time to consider switching over from oil to gas.
Another option is to change over to an energy-efficient tankless water heater. This will reduce both your electricity and water expenses. They are small and compact. Tankless heaters provide hot water on demand rather than storing the pre-heated water in a large tank until it is needed. They heat only the amount of water needed at a given moment and of time. Tankless water heaters can use either gas or electric power.
Fix or replace? It can be a tough call. We are here to help provide the options and ideas you need to make the best decision for you and your family.
Our Energy Star Qualified furnaces and hot water heaters meet or exceed the criteria set for Energy Star qualification. To learn more about repairing or upgrading your heating system, call us at (845) 253-4053. We service Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Putnam and Rockland Counties in the Hudson Valley.