Heat Exchanger

The Importance of an Annual Safety Check

Please note that the personal account told on this page is an extreme case. Most heat exchanger failures don't present the imminent danger that this one did. But all defects must be taken seriously.
In fact, the AGA (American Gas Association) states:

"Any visible crack or hole discovered in this step is reason for requiring replacement of the heat exchanger or furnace."

View entire AGA document (PDF)

Typical Lifespan for Furnaces

I also recollect finding failed heat exchangers in furnaces from Arcoaire, Carrier, Comfortmaker, Heil, Janitrol, Rheem, Ruud, Trane, Weather King, and York. Most of them were 12 to 20 years old; that's the typical lifespan for today's higher efficiency units.

Every furnace should receive an annual safety check by a qualified technician. In most cases, the unit will require an inexpensive cleaning and tune-up. Call today!

(717) 697-2392

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An Extreme Example of a Heat Exchanger Failure

What is a heat exchanger?
The heat exchanger is the largest component in every gas furnace. It performs the vital function of keeping the flame and exhaust safely contained.

What can go wrong?
If a heat exchanger develops a hole or crack, the hot exhaust might escape, possibly causing fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Here's a personal account...
Below are some pictures I took as we replaced a 13 year old Lennox Pulse gas furnace that was installed horizontally in an attic. My colleagues and I stood aghast at the sight. This is the closest we've seen a furnace come to setting a house on fire. This furnace was still providing reliable heat and did not set off the carbon monoxide alarm. I discovered this problem while performing a routine safety check.

Furnace Platform

Here is the platform that the furnace was installed on. It is made of wood and covered with fiberglass insulation. Notice how the wood was burned through the insulation.

Heat Exchanger hole

With the metal panel pried up, we can see the source of the problem: a quarter-sized hole in the heat exchanger.

Furnace upside-down

Here is the furnace turned upside-down. The burned area on the metal panel corresponds with the burned area on the platform (which was made of wood and fiberglass, see picture to the left).

Heat Exchanger hole close-up

Here is a close-up of the hole in the heat exchanger, where hot exhaust (between 300 and 500 degrees) leaked out.