Furnace heat exchanger: What are they, and how do they work?

undefinedYour furnace heat exchanger is arguably the most important part of the entire system. It’s at the heart of the system, and it’s what generates the warmed air. In this article, we will explain what a heat exchanger is, how they work, and what to do when something goes wrong.

What is the furnace heat exchanger?

A heat exchanger is the part of a furnace that generates hot air. The exchanger consists of coils or tubes that loop repeatedly through the air flow. The exact shape of the heat exchanger depends on the model or type of the furnace.

A gas furnace, for instance, has a heat exchanger that warms air through an ignition process. An electric furnace uses heated coils to warm air. The blower sends air over the heat exchanger, warming it and then distributing it throughout your home via your air ducts.

What can go wrong with this part?

As the air inside the furnace and around the heat exchanger warms to very hot temperatures, the metal inside of the exchanger expands and contracts. This is similar to why your air ducts sometimes make sounds when heated air passes through them. To a certain extent, heat exchangers are engineered to accept some of this process.

However, over the course of multiple years and multiple winters of use, all that expansion and contraction of metal has the potential to cause the heat exchanger to crack.

Even a small crack can be a problem, since it can result in carbon monoxide gas being leaked into the home’s air ducts. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal. Not every crack will cause a carbon monoxide leak, but every leak needs to be investigated and repaired when it happens.

When does a heat exchanger need to be replaced?

Heat exchangers are far more likely to develop problems late in the system’s life expectancy. In most cases, a cracked exchanger cannot be repaired, and must be replaced. Because the cost of this one part, for most systems, is nearly as high as the cost of a new furnace, many homeowners opt to get an entirely new furnace installed when the heat exchanger fails.

However, every situation is different. If you suspect your furnace heat exchanger has a problem, contact the team at Tin Man Heating & Cooling for furnace repair. Our technicians can inspect the system and determine whether or not the problem can be fixed, or if you’ll need a new system. Always have a certified and experienced HVAC technician work with your furnace.

In general, if your furnace is more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing the entire furnace and not just the heat exchanger. Furnaces usually have a lifespan of about 15 years. So, it makes more sense to replace the entire furnace if it is nearing the end of its operational life.

How can I make sure that my furnace is working right?

To make sure that your exchanger and your furnace are safe to operate this winter, you’ll want to schedule a heating tune-up with your local HVAC company. If you live in northwest Ohio, that’s us here at Tin Man!

Regular maintenance means that a technician is doing a thorough inspection for the signs of exchanger problems. If there are any problems with the exchanger or the furnace as a whole, you’ll be able to address thembefore the coldest months of the year—or before the furnace becomes a safety hazard to your home.

Call the team at Tin Man for furnace heat exchanger repair

If you live in northwest Ohio—including the communities of Bowling Green, Findlay, and surrounding areas—contact the team at Tin Man for more furnace repair advice and services. We’re happy to help with any of your heating needs this winter!