What is a heat exchanger?

Heat Exchanger

Basic Heat Exchanger

For many types of furnaces, including oil and gas furnaces, the heat exchanger is the key component that makes the system work. The purpose of the heat exchanger is separate one heat source from the air that we breath. In the diagram to the right, it is a heat exchanger that transitions heat from liquid to gas while containing the gas. In most homes a very similar heat exchanger would be used to transfer heat from the dangerous fumes being produced in your furnace to the clean air of your home, while channeling the toxic fumes safely out of your home.

In your home furnace, wither it is a gas or oil based furnace, the heat exchanger captures the gasses being put off by your furnaces boiler. The heat exchanger moves the toxic fumes back and forth through tubing allowing more of this hot air to come into contact with the metal of the tubing. As the metal heats up, air is being forced across the outside of the heat exchanger. Transferring heat from the heated metal to the clean air of your home.

Fundamentally, the heat exchanger is a barrier that allows heat to move from the noxious fumes to the clean air of your home. The problem, over time, the constant heating and cooling of your heat exchanger can cause stressing and cracking of the metal. In general a home owner can expect some degree of cracks to form over time and having seasonal checkups of this equipment is essential.

What cause premature damage to your heat exchanger?

Strangely enough, one of the most common issues is having a furnace that is the to large for your home. An over sized furnace tends to over heat your home. This is bad for several reasons. First, your home temperature will fluctuate more which can be uncomfortable. Second, it gives the heat exchanger more time before firings to cool off. As the heat exchanger warms, it expands, as it cools, it contracts. Each time your heat exchanger expands and contracts it creates weaknesses in the metal that can eventually create cracks. Once cracks are formed, it’s only a matter of time till moisture works its way in causing rust to break down the metal further and create breaks in the barrier protecting your home from the noxious fumes.

What can you do?

Ultimately, have a furnace check up every year during the fall. It’s a great time to have your system looked over to make sure it will run for the up coming year, but it’s also a GREAT time for a good safety check of the system.

If your looking to purchase a new furnace? Make sure the furnace meets your present need. Ask questions and compare what you had to what you are being quoted. Lastly, never be afraid to get a second opinion.


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