Watch out for Cracks in Your Heat Exchanger

Homes in Portland, OR tend to use gas-fed furnaces, which use burners fed by gas lines to heat the air. They’re simple and effective, but as they get older, problems may appear as they would in any major appliance that has seen a lot of use. Among the most serious is a cracked heat exchanger, which can present a hazard to your home and family. When your heat exchanger suffers damage, it’s usually a sign that you need a new heating system.


A heat exchanger is usually just a shaped piece of metal, sitting between the burners and the air they need to heat. The burners themselves won’t heat the air very effectively, but by transferring the heat through the exchanger, it produces much better results. The shaping of the exchanger also helps vent exhaust and toxins safely out of the home through a pipe.


Heat exchangers don’t usually contain any moving parts, which means they can last a good long time. Unfortunately, the stress of being heated and cooled day after day for years can take its toll, especially in Oregon which encounters numbers hot summers and cold winters. Fissures and cracks will eventually result as the metal of the exchanger finally gives out under the strain. When it does, two things happen:

  1. The system becomes much less effective, as heat energy is wasted and the heater needs to work much harder to do the same job.
  2. Toxic gasses can be released into your home, creating a hazard for all of the occupants. Many systems will automatically shut down upon detecting such gasses but older ones — the kind more prone to this kind of problem — might not. A carbon monoxide detector installed close to the furnace can help alert you to the issue.

Regardless of the causes of signs, the moment you detect a cracked heat exchanger, shut off the heater and call in the pros at Western Heating & Cooling for quality heating repairs!