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Cracked Heat Exchangers: What They Are & How to Prevent Them

Cracked heat exchangers are a dangerous part of running a heating system in your home.

The problem is, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether or not you have one. They can often be hidden or very small, but all variations should be treated seriously.

A heat exchanger is used to exchange heat between two different liquids and/or gases. Depending on the system, it’s meant to allow your HVAC system to run more efficiently using by-products of the system’s operations to act as a heater.

Problems arise when there is a crack in the exchanger because many furnaces burn one substance to create more heat and often times there are harmful chemicals released in this process. If there is a crack in your heat exchanger, chemicals such as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and even pure carbon, could be flowing into your home. These chemicals can cause illness in small doses and even prove fatal in extreme exposure.

What to Do

Call a service technician immediately. More often than not, a cracked heat exchanger will require replacement of the heat exchanger itself or the entire system. But it’s best to get a licenced technician to inform you on this decision.

We also highly recommend you check on your carbon monoxide detectors; they can help notify you of any potential gases leaking into your home. If you don’t have one, get one immediately as they can help protect your family. Plus, they’re mandatory for all homes in Ontario.

How it Happens

Considering the severity of the damage that can be caused by such a small crack, you are probably wondering why it happens and how you can prevent it.

The cracks in a heat exchanger are much like the cracks you drive over every day on your city’s streets. Through the changing seasons, roads are constantly heated up and frozen solid. As a result, the road shifts in size throughout the year. When the road is hot it expands and when it is cold it shrinks. Over time the material loses its ability to adjust to size changes and it cracks instead.

This same thing happens to your heating system.

When your HVAC system starts a heating cycle, the different temperature substances are constantly flowing through the heat exchanger, forcing it to shrink and expand. The exchanger becomes especially vulnerable to cracks when it must deal with extreme temperatures.

During extremes, the exchanger expands or shrinks and it can eventually pass its threshold and crack to relieve pressure. So, the best way to prevent this from happening is by limiting extremes and limiting cycles that your system must perform.

Harding Club Membership

The number one way we recommend you prevent extra work and stress for your system is maintenance. Scheduling regular service or signing up for a Harding Club Membership, will save you money on your energy bill. It can also help prevent part failure such as this one.

One of the most common problems this can help prevent is low air flow. Dirty filters or equipment can cause air flow problems which lead to extended cycles and wear because it’s difficult for the system to push the air to all parts of the home.

Your Harding technician can diagnose these problems to create more efficient settings for your system. They can also identify potential air flow issues within it. For air flow, it could be as simple as using a different or new filter, or as sophisticated as improper duct sizes or fittings.

Click here to schedule service with Team Harding.

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