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The winter is here, and that means your home’s furnace is an important piece of equipment. The furnace has several important components, and one of these is the heat exchanger.

At Whipple Plumbing, we’re on top of all your furnace repair needs, even if it’s just a single element like the heat exchanger. What exactly is a heat exchanger, and how can you take a few basic steps to keep it protected in your home? Let’s take a look.

Heat Exchanger Basics

The heat exchanger is, quite simply, the component that heats the air in the furnace. It’s a set of metal tubes or coils that connects to the burner assembly, ending at the vent or flu pipe. The exchanger separates air and gas to protect from exposure to combustion products like carbon monoxide.

Within the exchanger, heating fuel combusts, creating the heat that warms the surface. The blower motor forces air over the heat exchanger, forcing that air to rise in temperature. Once this has happened, air is circulated throughout the home’s HVAC system.

Common Exchanger Issues

If the heat exchanger goes faulty, it will be much harder to achieve desired temperatures, and may take far more energy to do so. In addition, it may pose serious health risks due to combustion byproducts – cracked heat exchangers are a particular risk if the component spills out. Here are some signs you might have a crack or other damage on your heat exchanger:

  • Soot inside the furnace
  • Visible cracks
  • Odors that resemble formaldehyde
  • Flickering or moving burner flames
  • Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure: Disorientation, nausea, irritation of the nose or eyes
  • Rust on the exchanger
  • Water surrounding the furnace base

If you notice any of these issues, call our HVAC technicians right away. Most exchanges have a service life of between 10 and 20 years, so once you reach that lower mark, begin to check regularly for signs of wear.

Basic Exchanger Care

The best way to maintain your furnace and heat exchanger is through yearly maintenance, but there are also a couple things you can do as a homeowner:

  • Change your furnace filters regularly, according to manufacturer guidelines. You may have to change filters more often during colder months.
  • Always keep home vents open, and keep them free of furniture or other objects. Don’t shut vents to try and save money – doing so can create airflow issues that are much more expensive in the long run.

For more on the heat exchanger, or for any of our furnace replacement or repair services, speak to the experts at Whipple Plumbing today.