Financially savvy homeowners in Commerce City, CO are always looking for the best way to get the most for their money when it comes to maintaining or repairing their appliances. If your HVAC technician tells you that there is an issue with your heat exchanger, you may wonder if it’s best to have a heat exchanger repaired or if it’s time to buy a new furnace. There are several factors that will help you make the right decision.

What Is Your Heat Exchanger, and What Does It Do?

The heat exchanger transfers thermal energy from one medium to a different medium. It operates within a gas furnace, elevating the air temperature before dispersing it throughout the home. The heat exchanger has top and bottom openings known as flutes. Burners within the furnace generate combustion gases directed through the first opening in the heat exchanger. Concurrently, the blower propels air over the heat exchanger’s exterior. The combustion gases heat the air, which is distributed throughout the home. The combustion gases resulting from the burner’s process exit through the flue outside the home. The heat exchanger acts as the core of the furnace, warming the air for distribution and safeguarding the home from harmful combustion gases.

Identifying Common HVAC Heat Exchanger Problems

The heat exchanger, a vital component of HVAC systems, undergoes extensive use and is susceptible to various issues. Regular HVAC system maintenance, including the heat exchanger, is crucial to mitigate breakdowns. It’s advisable to schedule professional furnace maintenance at least once annually.

Misappropriately Sized Furnace

Furnace size significantly impacts home comfort. A prevalent misconception is that a larger furnace is better. However, an oversized furnace in a small home can cause short cycling, where the furnace rapidly heats the house and shuts off quickly. This repetitive cycle results in excessive fuel consumption. Quick and frequent furnace activations and deactivations accelerate heat exchanger component wear, leading to higher bills and increased risk of heat exchanger failure.

Accumulation of Debris

Over time, debris and foreign objects may accumulate on the heat exchanger. This can include dirt, oxidized material from the furnace, or other contaminants. These obstructions can block the internal tubes used by the heat exchanger to heat the surrounding air. Consequently, the heat exchanger operates at an increased load, causing higher energy consumption and potential complete failure.


Cracking in the heat exchanger is a common issue, often stemming from short cycling. The continuous heating and cooling cycles impose excessive stress on the heat exchanger’s metal, eventually causing stress points to rupture and result in further complications. Identifying a cracked heat exchanger is easily done by an HVAC technician. Symptoms include soot accumulation within the furnace, water pooling at the furnace base, flickering flames in the burner, and noticeable odors throughout the house. Early detection and prompt resolution are vital to maintain the efficiency and safety of the HVAC system.

Deciding Between Repairing and Replacing Your Heat Exchanger

Determining whether to repair or replace your heat exchanger primarily hinges on the specific issues it is facing. If your heat exchanger is strained due to an improperly sized furnace for your home, replacing the furnace with an appropriately sized one is likely the best course of action. When dirt accumulation affects your heat exchanger, professional inspection and cleaning by an HVAC technician may restore its functionality. However, if your heat exchanger is cracked, the decision is more urgent due to the potential leakage of fatal carbon monoxide into your home.

Cost is a crucial consideration. Replacing a cracked heat exchanger can cost between $2,000 and $3,500. Investing in a new heat exchanger might be financially prudent if your furnace is relatively new with no other problems. Conversely, purchasing a new furnace may be a more viable option if your furnace is over a decade old, has multiple maintenance issues, and the heat exchanger is cracked. The functionality of your furnace is another critical factor. If your furnace is not functioning well, repairing or replacing the heat exchanger may not be cost-effective. Signs like high monthly electric bills, uneven temperature distribution in your home, and your furnace struggling to disperse air indicate it might be best to consult your HVAC technician regarding furnace replacement options.

Working With a Company Committed to Your Comfort

At Smith & Willis Heating & Air Conditioning, we are dedicated to excellent service and workmanship. We are proud to provide our customers in the Commerce City area with unparalleled HVAC service for the past 20 years. Our technicians are NATE certified and are committed to ensuring that you stay safe and comfortable indoors, whether on the hottest day of the summer or the coldest day of winter. Our services include HVAC maintenance, installation, and repair. We install heat pumps, offer indoor air quality services, and provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week emergency repair service. Contact Smith & Willis Heating & Air Conditioning today and see for yourself how our team is always working with your best interest in mind.

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