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Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

Updated: Apr 26

As winter approaches, it’s getting more and more important to have your home’s HVAC system inspected to ensure its health and to make sure that your health won’t be compromised over the coming months. One of the biggest things for a homeowner and an HVAC tech to look out for is the health of the heat exchanger.

Heat exchanger
Heat exchanger

What is a heat exchanger?

The heat exchanger component of your heating system is the part that actually heats the air. It contains an array of coils and tubes that filters the air through the system in order to heat it. If there is a crack in this system, it can pose a very serious threat to all people and animals within the home. Gasses burned within the system in order to heat the air include gases like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide. If the heat exchanger is cracked, these gases can leak into your home, which can result in serious bodily harm and even death.

Carbon monoxide

This gas is a poisonous one that has no odor or taste, which renders it completely undetectable to humans. When infected with carbon monoxide, it causes flu-like symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, vomiting, and overall confusion. Since heaters and furnaces are one of the main causes of carbon monoxide leakages in homes, it’s very important to take the threat seriously and to have your equipment inspected at least once a year.

How to check for cracks

There are many ways to be able to tell if your heat exchanger has cracks in it. Below we will outline a few of them.

  • Weird smells. Although you cannot smell carbon monoxide specifically, a heat exchanger will emit a very unpleasant smell familiar to that of formaldehyde if it’s cracked and leaking fumes, which can also cause headaches.

  • Soot. If you can see soot buildup within the heater, it’s a sign that the burners are situated improperly or that the heat exchanger has a crack in it. Soot is evidence of incomplete combustion, which is a sign of cracks.

  • Water on the floor. Much like air conditioners, water on the floor can indicate an issue with condensation or can indicate an issue with the heat exchanger.

  • Corrosion on the furnace. It’s normal for a furnace to experience corrosion and cracks due to expanding and contracting of components as they work and due to the nature of some of the materials used during the heating process. However, if you notice that the outer shell of your furnace is corroded and cracked, it could also be a sign that the inside is in the same shape.

  • Call a professional. The best option to choose for checking for cracks is to call a professional for an official inspection done by a certified professional. Furnaces and HVAC systems need at least one annual inspection to ensure that all is working well and to prevent any situation where you’re using unsafe equipment.

Do you think you have a cracked heat exchanger?

If you have any inkling that your heat exchanger may be cracked, call a professional immediately. If you are experiencing the symptoms relayed above, it’s extremely important to seek medical help immediately and remove all people and pets from the home.

Call us

Annual inspections of HVAC equipment and furnaces are crucial in keeping your HVAC system and your family comfortable, safe, and healthy. Get in contact with one of our certified technicians today! Don’t hesitate in giving us a call here at Tri-Point Refrigeration. We’re happy to hear from you and are excited to help you along the way.

For a direct line to any of our employees ready on the line to help you, please call…(512) 651-4565 for our Austin, Texas community (806) 686-0050 for our Lubbock, Texas community. Or check out our website at



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