Reputable heating and cooling experts deal with plenty of cracked heat exchanger jobs in the winter. Unfortunately, many less-than-reputable handymen exploit this problem to make a few bucks at the expense of homeowners.
In this article, we’re unpacking the truth behind cracked heat exchangers for furnaces in homes in Hanover, PA and across Central Pennsylvania. We’ll explain what it is, why it’s a big deal, how some people use it for scamming, and how to avoid getting ripped off.
Meanwhile, if you have any concerns about the heating and cooling system in your Hanover, PA, home, you can call Air Comfort Technologies for expert, reliable repair. We’re fully licensed and insured with an excellent reputation and long-standing history of work in Central Pennsylvania.
What Is A Cracked Heater Exchanger?
A cracked heat exchanger is a break or split in the heat exchanger — a vital component of your furnace that’s located inside the system.
This part is the chamber where heat transfers from the fossil fuel your system uses. It’s where the actual burning of oil or gas occurs. This process generates heat —- and creates carbon monoxide.
Usually, the carbon monoxide, or CO, escapes safety through the exhaust system. That way, this poisonous gas never leaks into your home. Unless, of course, something’s not working right. When the heat exchanger cracks, the chamber is no longer sealed.
Is A Cracked Heater Exchanger Dangerous?
A cracked heat exchanger is dangerous because it can let carbon monoxide seep into your home. The poisonous gas makes its way through the cracks instead of exiting through the exhaust.
This problem gets compounded by the fact that you’ll never know on your own that this is happening. CO is colorless and odorless. It’s why we all have detectors in our home now: without them, we’d never know if there was a problem until it was too late.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly, which is why this HVAC problem can become a real danger in your home. And, unfortunately, it’s a problem that some people decide to exploit in the wintertime.
How Do I Know If A Heat Exchanger Is Cracked?
Unless your carbon monoxide detector is beeping, you’ll never know on your own if your heat exchanger is cracked. You can’t see the damage, and it doesn’t often cause other problems. That’s what makes it dangerous — and an easy target for scammers.
As HVAC professionals, we most often find a cracked heat exchanger during a tune-up or routine preventative maintenance. And, even we often don’t see the crack right away. The exchanger is deep inside the system.
Instead, we notice the problem when checking CO levels. If your system is leaking the gas, we’ll find it during the diagnostics. That’s our cue to investigate the issue more. In some cases, we can use a flashlight to peer inside or see a crack. Other times, we also need a mirror to get a better view, similar to how a dentist uses one to see the back of your teeth.
Once we’re sure of the problem, we have to break the bad news to a homeowner: They need to replace their entire furnace. And, they can’t use the one they have anymore. We’re forced to red-tag it, meaning we shut it off, and it can’t be turned back on.
We’ll explain in a moment why this problem requires such drastic measures. But, it’s worth mentioning here that these circumstances make a cracked heat exchanger a common target for scammers. You can’t see the problem on your own. It’s an expensive problem (but a relatively easy job) and it requires immediate attention.
Why Can’t You Fix A Cracked Heat Exchanger?
According to industry standards and safety guidelines, we can’t even attempt to fix a cracked heat exchanger. There’s no guarantee the repair will hold up. And since you can’t easily access the part, that means the problem can come back even worse. Even if we could, it’s usually too expensive to be worth it.
Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with a small part that we can replace or re-attach. The crack will be a random break in the ceramic. There’s no way to patch it back up safely. The break can appear anywhere, and high temperatures inside the chamber would quickly weaken the patch.
And, replacing it is rarely cost-effective. We need to take apart the entire furnace, purchase and install the part, then re-assemble it. That’s a long, complicated job. By the time you add up the parts and labor prices, it’s not worth it — especially if your furnace is getting older.
Even still, there’s no guarantee the problem won’t come back. And, since you can’t see it or notice until the CO monitor starts beeping, we don’t want to take a chance on the health and safety of you and your family.
In fact, that’s why we have to shut everything down: If the repair doesn’t hold, you may not realize it until it’s too late. It’s called red-tagging: We shut off your furnace, and then only us or another contractor can get it running again. For safety reasons, we’re obligated to do it.
And, as you can imagine, this is the point in the process where scammers come in.
Avoiding The Cracked Heat Exchanger Scam
The cracked heater scam is simple: An HVAC tech tests the system, declares a cracked heat exchanger, and shuts down your furnace. Since you can’t see the part, and the clock is ticking without heat, you’re pressured into paying him thousands of dollars for the job. You can avoid this grift by choosing a reputable company and by asking the right questions.
We’ll go through these here.
Choose A Reputable Company
Finding a trustworthy contractor is easier than ever today. Even if you don’t have time to call someone’s references, you can check the Better Business Bureau website for any complaints, and browse their Google and Yelp reviews.
And, if you can’t find them online, don’t trust them! Virtually every contractor worth their salt has an online presence. The best ones will have been around on Google for years and will have the reviews to prove it. Anyone who just has a card with an address or phone number could be a fly-by-night operation.
That’s especially so if they cold-call you. We sometimes hear about people getting phone calls from a “local HVAC service” offering specials on tune-ups and maintenance. They offer you a great deal but red-tag the unit once they’re in the house.
Ask The Right Questions
A scammer will try to pressure you into signing on for a new furnace right away. But, you can still shake him if you don’t automatically go with what they’re saying. Instead, start by asking them to explain the problem and how they know it’s there.
Someone trying to scam you wants to get in and out. They won’t like all those questions. By contrast, an honest, reputable company understands this is a big investment and will take the time to answer anything you want.
Next, ask if they will show you the damaged part once they take apart the furnace. Then ask if they will reassemble the furnace at no cost if it turns out the heat exchanger is okay.
Finally, tell them you’re calling someone for a second opinion. By now, you don’t seem like an easy mark anymore. Odds are, they’ll move on. Either way, get that second opinion — and make sure you vet the next company that’s coming out.
Expert, Reliable Heating And Cooling In York, PA
Air Comfort Technologies is licensed and certified with over 50 years of combined experience, an A+ BBB rating, and plenty of five-star reviews online. Our excellent reputation means you can trust us for any heating and cooling needs in York, PA, and Central Pennsylvania. Call or email us today!