4 Ways To Diagnose A Heat Exchanger Problem

Gas furnaces are subject to a number of potential problems, few of which are as potentially deadly as a cracked or damaged heat exchanger. Unfortunately, many commercial property owners fail to understand the gravity of this issue. If you would like to improve your knowledge of furnace diagnostic skills, read on. This article will discuss four ways an HVAC professional can diagnose a damaged commercial heat exchanger.

Visible Cracks

Cracks are at the heart of all heat exchanger problems. That's because they allow dangerous exhaust fumes to enter the air that is circulating up into your building. Thus the most basic way to identify an exchanger issue is to visually locate any cracks. Of course, this may be easier said than done.

A professional will usually perform a thorough inspection using a flashlight or headlamp. If this fails to turn up any cracks, they may then choose to turn to thermal imaging as a way to identify the location of the crack. This technique utilizes infrared detectors to find places where heat--and thus exhaust fumes--are escaping from the exchanger.

Discolored Areas

No matter how thoroughly a visual inspection is conducted, it simply may not be able to find the location of the crack. In that case, it is important to turn to the indirect symptom of a discolored exchanger. Such discolorations generally involve blackened areas on the outer surface of the metal. These areas, caused by soot escaping from inside the exchanger, often provide just the clue necessary to pinpoint the crack.

Wavering Furnace Flame

When a heat exchanger becomes cracked or damaged, it permits combustion air to mix with the air that is being circulated back out into the rooms of your building. As these two different air streams mix together, they often cause the furnace flame to behave in odd ways--especially when the blower fan turns on. Thus a professional HVAC technician will often observe the furnace flame. If it seems to be dancing and/or jumping around, this may indicate a compromised heat exchanger.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarms

Finally, it is important to emphasize the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors located throughout the various floors and rooms of your property. While these may be triggered by a number of different furnace-related issues, a cracked heat exchanger is one of the most common. Of course, you never want to have to rely on your CO detectors to diagnose a problem. Instead, be sure to have your furnace's heat exchanger inspected on a regular basis for any signs of damage.

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