What Is a Heat Exchanger?

Gas furnaces are one of the most common and effective ways of heating a home. Natural gas costs less than electricity and burns more thoroughly than propane or oil, so natural gas furnaces are also highly energy-efficient as well. In this post, we’ll discuss one of the key components of the operation of a gas furnace—the heat exchanger—and why it’s important to keep it in good condition through repair and maintenance.

If you need help with your heating in Columbus, look to Advantage Airtech. We’ve served the Greater Toronto Area with excellent heating and cooling since 1987.

And when you think you have problems with a heat exchanger in your furnace, contact us right away.

Heat exchanger basics

Gas furnaces, as with other types of furnaces, use forced air to send heat through a home: blower fans channel heated air through ductwork. However, furnaces use different methods to turn the energy from their fuel source into heat and then transfer it to the air.

This is where the heat exchanger plays its part in a gas furnace. The heat exchanger (often there is more than one) is a metal clamshell-shaped chamber. When the furnace’s jets create combustion gas, this high-temperature, high-pressure gas moves into the heat exchanger. The conductive metal of the heat exchanger walls grow extremely hot because of the combustion gas, causing the chamber to slightly expand. At this point, a fan blows air across the surface of the exchanger, where contact with the hot walls transfers the heat to the air. This warmed air is what the blower fans will send into the ductwork. When the heating cycle finishes, the combustion gas is safely vented from the heat exchanger.

Heat exchanger problems

Because heat exchangers expand and contract many times during the heating season, they can start to develop cracks and gaps. If corrosion gets inside the furnace cabinet, it can also lead to holes along the exchangers. This can turn into a dangerous situation, since it will allow exhaust gas to escape from the exchanger and into the furnace cabinet, and possibly into your living spaces. This exhaust is carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that is toxic and highly combustible. A cracked heat exchanger is one of the major safety concerns for a gas-powered furnace.

If you hear strange hissing noises from the cabinet, or notice a change in the flame color of the pilot light, you may have a furnace exchanger problem; shut off the gas supply and call a professional to handle the trouble.

Fortunately, it is easy to avoid heat exchanger issues through regular annual maintenance on your furnace: technicians will detect exchangers that are beginning to wear down or develop corrosion and then replace them. Contact Advantage Airtech for regular maintenance check-ups or any repairs you need for your heating system in Columbus.