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What Is a Furnace Heat Exchanger?

Your furnace is essential for warding off the seasonal chill and keeping your family warm and comfortable when the temperatures outside begin to drop. Your furnace’s heat exchanger is the component that makes this process possible without compromising the safety of your home. In simple terms, your heat exchanger is a thin metal shield that separates toxic fumes created through combustion from the breathable air being pushed through your vents.

To understand the critical nature of this part of your furnace, you must know how your heat exchanger works and what can happen when something goes wrong.

Due to the hazards of mixing the safe air in your home with the combustion fumes released when gas burns, we’ll go over the heat exchange process and how to quickly identify when there’s a problem.

Are you having furnace trouble and need an experienced HVAC technician to help?

The highly trained technicians at Cooper Heating & Cooling are ready to diagnose your problem and make the furnace repairs you need to get your system running efficiently. Reach out to us today to take advantage of our fast and convenient scheduling so you don’t get left in the cold.

How a Furnace Exchanger Works

The heat exchanger is an essential part of your furnace’s heating process, but it takes a series of events for this part to do its job. It also works closely with other elements in your furnace to keep your home’s temperature comfortable.

The Combustion Chamber

Unless your furnace is electric and uses heated coils, the combustion chamber is the area of your unit that allows gas and air to mix so it can combust. This component is where fuel burns to generate the heat used to warm your home. Because the fumes caused by this process, sometimes called flue gasses, are dangerous to breathe, the combustion chamber is a closed system that utilizes vents to pull oxygen in and direct the flue gasses out of your home.

Heat Transfer Process

During combustion, the heated gasses are pushed through the metal tubes of your heat exchanger. The metal heats on contact with these gasses. Your furnace may have up to two heat exchangers, depending on its efficiency rating. A secondary exchanger increases a furnace’s efficiency as the heated gasses traveling through the primary exchanger then go through the secondary to utilize more of the produced heat.

Air Circulation Process

As your exchanger heats up, your furnace blows air from your home across the heated tubes, warming it before circulating it back through your home. This process repeats multiple times until your home reaches the temperature you set on your thermostat.

Risks of a Broken Heat Exchanger

Your exchanger is subject to intense heat as it functions, and this heat can lead to cracks in the protective metal. Because the heat exchanger is responsible for blocking harmful gasses from your breathable air, cracks can allow the flue gasses to escape into your vent system and spread throughout your home. In some cases, carbon monoxide can be a concern when the leak results in inefficient combustion.

Signs Your Heat Exchanger Is Broken

Signs of a broken heat exchanger are difficult to detect without a physical inspection or a carbon monoxide detector. Depending on the model of your furnace, you may be able to easily look at your heat exchanger to see if there are any visible cracks or holes. Others may require special tools to check for a problem.

Why Furnace Maintenance Is Crucial

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One of the best ways to prevent the dangers of a broken heat exchanger is to schedule your inspection each year. During your furnace’s annual maintenance visit, your HVAC technician will ensure all components function safely and efficiently. This includes looking over your heat exchanger for any signs of damage. Even if your exchanger doesn’t have easily identified damage, trained technicians will be able to tell if there is a problem looming and give you a heads-up that your compromised exchanger should be addressed.

Cooper Heating & Cooling has been helping area homeowners with their furnace needs for the last 45 years.

Whether you need to schedule your annual tune-up or you’ve noticed an issue that calls for furnace repair service, you can rest easy knowing all our work is backed by our 100% satisfaction guarantee. Give us a call today and find out why our work has earned us thousands of 5‑star reviews.

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Luke Cooper