Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is entirely preventable. Protect yourself and your family by learning the symptoms of CO poisoning and how to prevent it. Carbon monoxide, a poisonous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas responsible for more than 50,000 visits to the emergency room every year, can pose a danger from unanticipated sources in your home, including fireplaces, water heaters, and generators. Improper ventilation of fuel-burning appliances and exhaust from running automobile engines in attached garages are ordinarily associated with dangerous carbon monoxide levels. Another potential cause of carbon monoxide in your living space is your furnace.

How to Recognize CO Poisoning

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

What is a heat exchanger and why is it essential?

A furnace’s heat exchanger is a metal component that transfers heat from the fuel being burned while preventing the air in your home from mixing with the furnace exhaust. Sometimes the heat exchanger fails, either from cracks produced by continual expansion and contraction due to heating and cooling of the metal or from rust. When a heat exchanger fails—under certain conditions—the exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide, can combine with the air in the house. A properly functioning furnace should not generate significant levels of carbon monoxide; however, a cracked or leaking heat exchanger can pose a safety danger.

What are the hazards connected with a cracked heat exchanger? 

A cracked heat exchanger could let exhaust gas from the furnace to contaminate the household air with exhaust gases including carbon monoxide. In order for this to happen, the furnace must be giving off high levels of carbon monoxide and the exhaust gas must be joining with the household air. This could lead to serious illness and even death.

What are the signs of a cracked heat exchanger? 

Apart from a visual inspection to establish a crack, there are a few signs of a potential problem with your heat exchanger that you may notice. If you turn the heat on and the flames flicker and appear devilish, this could be a signal that circulated air from the furnace is getting into the combustion area and you should have it checked by one of our HVAC technicians. By taking the necessary precautions, you can typically avoid signs of trouble including carbon monoxide detectors sounding and you or your family members feeling sick, lightheaded or nauseous. To ensure the safety of all occupants, all homes should have a working carbon monoxide detector and batteries should be replaced routinely.

How can I be positive that my heat exchanger really has failed? 

Service technicians at Hobson Plumbing & Heating have received specialized training in diagnosing a cracked heat exchanger. Additionally, an expert technician will test both the home and furnace for carbon monoxide. A properly operating furnace should not generate significant levels of carbon monoxide. Hobson Heating & Plumbing technicians can also review the dangers associated with the failed part and offer professional consultation regarding the next steps.

What happens after a Hobson Plumbing & Heating HVAC technician diagnoses a cracked heat exchanger?

Once you have a confirmed diagnosis from one of our experts, your first question will likely be whether the part can be repaired or if a replacement is the only option. Unfortunately, the industry standard is that the heat exchanger must be replaced.

If my heat exchanger has failed, do I have to replace the furnace? 

While it may end up making sense to replace the furnace as opposed to only the heat exchanger, that is not always the case. Furnace warranties can vary—most furnaces have a 10-year warranty on the heat exchanger, while some are covered for 20 years or even for the life of the furnace. Hobson Plumbing & Heating technicians can help you investigate the warranty on your heat exchanger and provide all the information you need to decide if replacing the heat exchanger or the entire furnace is right for you. Visit our website at Hobson Plumbing & Heating to learn about all the services we offer 24x7x365.