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4 Telltale Signs Your Heat Exchanger Is Cracked

Several components make a furnace a furnace. While heat pumps and furnaces have similar components, some distinct components will only be found on furnaces or heat pumps. The heat exchanger is one of these components and virtually one of the most important parts of a furnace. This is because it is where the fuel-air mixture takes place. In short, the heat exchanger is the big barrel that gets hot and forces air into the home. As you can imagine it’s essential for proper operation. This is why you always need to be alert and diligent about potential problems with the component. Not to mention that there malfunctions that can put you and your family at risk.

Flame Issues

Since the heat exchanger is where the air, fuel mixture takes place, you can imagine that it’d have a lot to do with the color of your flame. Most people probably never even paid any attention to their pilot or flame before now, but the color of your furnace flames can tell you a lot about your unit. As a matter of fact, they can tell you if you are dealing with a cracked heat exchanger. In a normally operating unit, your furnace’s flames should be blue. If they aren’t blue, but instead yellow or some other off-color, it’s a good indication you are looking at a cracked heat exchanger. It could mean that your burner needs cleaning as well, which is a fairly simple and inexpensive repair, so you’ll want to try this first before moving on to the heat exchanger.

Strange Odors

No one wants to have to deal with strange odors in their home. Unfortunately, these strange odors could be the result of a cracked heat exchanger. Strong and pungent odors are a good indication you’re dealing with a cracked heat exchanger. It’ll smell almost as if your unit is leaking chemicals. If you happen to notice smells like this coming from your furnace, you’ll want to get in touch with a local San Diego HVAC tech immediately.


Since your heat exchanger is where the fuel and air are mixed, you can imagine that it’ll create quite the mess. Just think about the inside of a chimney or the inside of a wood stove. That’s virtually what your heat exchanger is. With these types of applications, soot is always a concern and it’ll be no different with a heat exchanger. That being said, heat exchangers are built so that this soot stays on the inside. If you are seeing soot in your ducts or it’s being blown throughout your home or office, this is a telltale sign you might be dealing with a cracked heat exchanger.

Illnesses In The Building

Got people in your home or building that have unexpectedly started developing flu-like symptoms? Headaches, skin irritations, unexplained disorientation? These are all signs of a cracked heat exchanger. Cracked heat exchangers can leak chemicals into the spaces where they are installed, so this is something you’ll want to rectify immediately. Cracked heat exchangers can lead to a multitude of potential problems for your family or building’s residents. Some of them can even be life-threatening. This is why if you even suspect that your unit has a cracked heat exchanger, you’ll want to start working with a trained, certified, and qualified HVAC tech. He or she will be able to check your system and tell you exactly what you are dealing with. He or she will also be able to advise you as to how to proceed because there are some instances where cracked heat exchangers cost more than replacing the unit. If your unit is 10 years or older, you’ll likely want to look into a replacement.

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