How a Heat Exchanger Works, and How Problems Can Occur

Many homeowners think of a furnace as a unified whole that somehow, someway, brings heat into an otherwise cold home. If that sounds like you, more or less, no one’s blaming you for not investigating how a furnace works. You have a busy life, you have plenty on your plate already, and you trust people like us to recommend, install, and help maintain a high-quality furnace that you don’t need to understand any better than how to perform brain surgery.

Actually, and up to a certain point, that’s true. There’s really not a lot you need to know, but there’s at least some you should – for your own sake. And one such item is the furnace’s heat exchanger.

Heat exchanger

It’s the largest component of the furnace. Like all man-made devices, time and use take their toll and can result in cracks or holes. Not good, but we’ll get back to that near the end of this blog.

How a Heat Exchanger Works

Heat exchangers transfer heat from one place to another. When a furnace burns natural gas or propane fuel, its exhaust/ by-products enter and travel through the heat exchanger. The hot flue gas heats the metal which, in turn, heats the air circulating over the exterior of the heat exchanger.

If you have a high-efficiency furnace, it contains both a primary and secondary heat exchanger. As the combustion exhaust leaves the primary heat exchanger, it travels into a second unit where more heat is released, and water vapor begins to form. This change of state releases latent heat in the secondary heat exchanger, bringing the furnace to an even higher level of efficiency.

Health Risks

Here’s the most important thing you need to know about your furnace heat exchanger. Because it contains flue combusted gas, it is essential that no holes or cracks emerge.  Otherwise, carbon monoxide and other harmful by-products can occur from gas mixing with air.

How Pann Can Help
At Pann Home Services, we recommend annual furnace and boiler maintenance. In the case of your furnace, it allows us to keep close watch over all aspects of the system’s operation while paying special attention to any signs of heat exchanger deterioration. So, for optimum reliability and safety, contact us today to schedule preventive maintenance for your home heating system.