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Furnace FAQ: What Is a Heat Exchanger?


We live in what we call the “information age.” Just a quick tap with your fingers on your phone and you’ll be able to find out any information you might need about a given topic. Your heating in Grand Rapids, MI is one of those topics that could save you money and give you some insight when learning how it works!

Today, we’d like to focus on perhaps one of the most important components of a furnace heating system—the heat exchanger. This little device is responsible for keeping the fumes of combustion out of your indoor air and allowing your system to heat clean, fresh air that you can breathe safely.

We want to discuss the importance of this part, how to treat it with care, and why you might need to get yours fixed if you encounter a problem.

“What Is the Heat Exchanger?”

Let’s start off by talking about what exactly the heat exchanger is. These components are only in gas furnaces, so it’s important that we start with the basic technology of the system.

A gas furnace heats a home by burning natural gas and providing heated air that can then be cycled through air vents and into the home. Unfortunately, there are some pretty dangerous byproducts to the burning of natural gas. These fumes, which include leftover gas, carbon monoxide, and smoke, can be dangerous to inhale and would make your home unlivable if they entered your breathable space.

The heat exchanger keeps all of those dangerous fumes together to be vented out, while transferring heat to your home’s clean air so you can feel comfortable and safe.

“How Does It Help the Heating Process?”

Without a heat exchanger, your home could be inundated with toxic fumes. Think about when you open the flue to a wood-burning fireplace, it’s so that you can exhaust the smoke that comes from a burning fire while getting the warmth and ambiance. Heat exchangers are a necessary component that comes with every combustion-based furnace.

“What Can Go Wrong With a Heat Exchanger?”

Any issue with a heat exchanger is a serious concern. This is because this component is central to the functionality and safety of your heating system. If it gets cracked or you start noticing a foul odor or stench coming from your vents, then you need to have your furnace fixed as soon as possible.

A heat exchanger can also get neglected over time if the system isn’t well maintained. Keep up with routine maintenance so a professional can clean and inspect your heat exchanger.

“Is There a Problem With My Heat Exchanger?”

One great way to tell if your heat exchanger is encountering problems is by examining the sound your furnace makes when it runs. If you hear a rattling noise, or can tell that something is misaligned or broken in your heater, then you need to call for help. A misaligned component, or something loose in the system, can cause the heat exchanger to crack and lead to the exposure of gas and toxic fumes in your home.

Contact GRmetro Heating and Cooling for heating services you can count on.

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