Does this scenario sound familiar?
A technician recently told you that you need to replace your heat exchanger. When they told you how much it would cost to replace it, you reeled back in shock and asked “How much?!”
Unfortunately, heat exchangers are expensive to replace because the part itself is expensive and it can take up to 10 hours for a tech to replace it.
In Michigan, the cost to replace a furnace heat exchanger ranges from $700 to $2,000. The cost depends on the type of furnace you have, whether the heat exchanger is covered under warranty and how difficult it is to access your furnace.
In this article, we’ll explain:
- What a heat exchanger is
- What causes a heat exchanger to break
- How to know your heat exchanger needs to be replaced
- Whether you should replace your furnace or just the heat exchanger
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What is a heat exchanger?
The heat exchanger is the part of your furnace that heats your home’s air. It is made of metal coils that are designed to absorb and transfer heat.
Here’s how the heating process works in your furnace: The burners in your furnace heat the coils of the heat exchanger. Your furnace pulls in cold air over these coils, where the heat is transferred to the cold air, turning it warm. This warm air is then pushed back into your home, which is how your home is heated.
The bottom line? The heat exchanger is essential to your furnace. Without it, your furnace wouldn’t work at all.
Now that you know what a heat exchanger is, let’s look at what causes a heat exchanger to break.
What causes a heat exchanger to break?
First of all, when we talk about a heat exchanger breaking, we’re usually referring to visible cracking that occurs in the metal coils of the heat exchanger.
The most common cause of a cracked heat exchanger is overheating.
Overheating can be caused by several issues, including:
- A dirty air filter
- A lack of regular furnace maintenance
- Worn out pressure valves
- Combustion problems
- An incorrectly sized furnace
All of the issues above cause the metal coils on the heat exchanger to expand and contract, which can eventually cause the metal to crack.
A cracked heat exchanger poses a potential health risk to your family because it allows harmful gases from the combustion process (like carbon monoxide) to mix with the air you breathe. Because of this health risk, if your heat exchanger is cracked, you’ll want to have it fixed ASAP.
How do I know if my heat exchanger needs to be replaced
According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), “Any crack or hole that is big enough to affect combustion will be easily visible to the naked eye.”
That means if a technician claims your heat exchanger is cracked, they should be able to point the crack out to you.
Beware of technicians that say you have a cracked heat exchanger but cannot provide visible proof. Sadly, some technicians use scare tactics to manipulate people into buying a new heat exchanger when it is not really needed. Always ask the technician to show you the crack in the heat exchanger so you can see it for yourself.
Should I replace my furnace or just the heat exchanger?
Let’s assume you actually have a cracked heat exchanger. Because heat exchangers are so expensive to replace, it may be more cost-effective to put that money towards a new furnace.
If you’re facing a heat exchanger replacement, you should consider the following questions:
- Is your furnace warranty still valid? If your furnace parts warranty is still valid, then you might not have to pay as much for the heat exchanger replacement because the cost of the part will be covered by the manufacturer. You can contact the manufacturer of your furnace for more information about the warranty and have them check if your furnace is still under warranty.
- How old is your furnace? Furnaces typically last around 12–15 years. If yours is nearing that age range or has needed significant repairs, it may be better to invest in a new furnace instead of replacing the heat exchanger.
Want a Michigan pro to replace your heat exchanger?Schedule an appointment today
Our technicians give honest answers and will never sell you something you don’t actually need. We’ll give you all the information you need to know whether you should replace your heat exchanger or get a new furnace.
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