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Should I Replace My Furnace’s Heat Exchanger or Get a New Furnace?

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airprofGot a cracked heat exchanger? if you’ve already gotten a quote for replacing the heat exchanger from a contractor, your head might be spinning right now. “It costs HOW much to replace it?”

So now your main question is, “Should I replace the cracked heat exchanger or get a whole new furnace?”

Good question.

But before we answer that, let’s question this one important assumption…

Is your furnace’s heat exchanger ACTUALLY cracked?

It’s sad to say this, but there are several dishonest contractors out there. Many will try to find something wrong with your furnace so they can sell you an expensive repair or new furnace.

One of most common ways to do that is tell you that your heat exchanger is cracked. They show you these “cracks” by showing you how water or a smoking agent get through gaps in the heat exchanger.

This is a dubious practice meant to trick you out of you hard-earned money. According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI):

“Any crack or hole that is big enough to affect combustion will be easily visible to the naked eye. Do not use water cameras or smoking agents to check for leaks. Furnace heat exchangers joints are not hermetically sealed, so a small amount
of leakage is normal
. If there are any abnormal splits, cracks or holes, the heat exchanger must be replaced.” Emphasis ours.

So, for any contractor who says you have a cracked heat exchanger, don’t take their word for it. Ask him or her to show it to you. You should be able to see it.

Here are several photos of cracked heat exchangers so you’ll know what you’ll be looking for.

Other signs of a cracked heat exchanger include:

  • Soot buildup on internal parts due to improper combustion.
  • High levels (200+ ppm/parts per million) of carbon monoxide in the flue pipe.
  • Flame disturbances/abnormal flames in the burners. Flames should be steady and blue. if the flames are yellow/orange and dance around, then there’s a possibility your heat exchanger is cracked.

Again, ask your contractor to show you these signs.

Let’s assume the heat exchanger really is cracked

OK, down to brass tacks. If your heat exchanger is cracked, your furnace is probably nearing the end of it’s life (18-20 years).

If that’s the case, then it’s usually not worth the money to replace the heat exchanger. No matter who you ask, replacing a heat exchanger will be expensive. It’s the equivalent of buying a brand new engine for an old, broken down car.

Therefore, your next step is to find a new furnace. Check out our guide to determining if a high efficiency furnace is worth the extra cost in your New Jersey home.

Or if you’re thinking about also replacing your air conditioner (people often replace their furnace and air conditioner together) you should consider a heat pump. Heat pumps can heat and cool your home.

Read our article on if a heat pump works well in New Jersey weather.

Need a second opinion about your furnace’s heat exchanger, or need pricing for a new furnace or heat pump? Contact Air Professionals for help.

Air Professionals is a whole-home comfort company serving New Jersey homeowners. Contact us for more information on how we can help improve your home’s comfort.