Cracked heat exchanger in furnace

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by dmax56, May 1, 2010.

  1. dmax56

    dmax56 Handyman

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    A good friend of mine is selling his home and was just told yesterday that he has (and I saw) a 1/4" hole in the front corner of the heat exchanger in his gas fired heater.

    Is there a legitimate way to plug this hole that would pass inspection? It's obviously been working like this for quite a while. This is the beginning and end of my search...don't want to try to fix even if I could and try to hide anything...but if there is a legitimate repair, would love to know about it.

    Hmmm? Brazing? Prolly not, right? Bet it would work, but send a red flag out.

    Anyway, he's a good guy and I have to ask for him...

    Thanks for whatever you can suggest I do or don't do!

    Doug
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,004
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    The last two homes of mine had furnaces replaced.
    1974, replaced in 1995
    and 1978 replaced in 2006
    The last one was replaced after the inspection. When I had looked at the home, I mentioned to the Realtor that the home smelled bad.

    Living with carbon monoxide was not pleasant, or healthy.
    Is he selling it to people with small kids?

    I had the last furnace replaced for $1500
    The first furnace I replaced myself for $500

    You know that when something is that old, the entire exchanger is rusting through, right?
    Have you ever asked your car mechanic to weld up you aged and rusting tail pipe?

    Protect Your Family and Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

    Carbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly
    You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible. Be safe. Practice the DO’s and DON’Ts of carbon monoxide.
    CO Poisoning Symptoms
    Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.
    Last edited: May 1, 2010
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,631
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I don't know anyone who would want to accept the liabilty by repairing it. Usually by the time that happens, it is not the only problem with it.
  4. dmax56

    dmax56 Handyman

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    That's the answer then. Just asking, Terry. It wouldn't matter whether the future buyer had kids of any size or not, if there isn't a legitimate repair, there isn't.

    He told me his quote was $3800 to have furnace installed. NJ or just crazy high? A carrier unit...he thought a "184" something or other.

    I'm not sure if I would ask my mechanic to weld a rusty tailpipe, since it's not a particularly hard thing to replace...but I probably would remove my alt and replace voltage regulator and brushes to save the $400...I do lots on my car myself...so love 'fixes' requiring nothing more than a ziptie...or some bathing in coolant to fix. But I do know mechanics need to suggest moving to a new unit always...it's cheaper from customer's perspective in many times...but in diying, lots of money to be saved by just restoring it. Anyway, I was actually thinking of car repair when I asked my question! LOL

    And hj, thanks again for your thought. You're right, of course...I'd trust my auto mechanic to do in my home if he said it was 'no problem,' but unfortunately he's not in that business!

    Thanks again guys...don't freak that I'm planning anything nefarious...coz I really was just asking! I am not an idiot...just saying!

    Doug
  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,004
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I find it better to drop off my starters and alternators to R&L Repair in Bellevue.
    They can turn the armatures, and install new brushes.
    They also give me a new starter pinions. Those can wear out too.

    The ?rebuilt? stuff at the auto parts stores only last a year or so.
  6. dmax56

    dmax56 Handyman

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    Fortunately, I haven't needed to do anything yet...but since I really need to plan my repairs without aid of another car going to get parts, I tend to plan my work pretty well. But, by doing that, I also find tons of little $2 parts that few mechanics on earth would bother replacing...either too much work to find or too much risk trying to explain to many customers why there was an extra amount on parts.

    My calipers have a rebuilding kit for the seals around piston and will get to that soon...and hope I don't have to get to anything anytime soon again. She got about 16 hours of work 2 weeks ago so she better run...even for 3 weeks would be nice!
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,631
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    It would not be equivalent to welding the tail pipe. It would be like patching the exhaust pipe at the engine, right in FRONT of, or underneath, the passenger compartment.
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,004
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I lived in a home with a cracked exchanger.
    It took us a while to figure it out, we were not feeling well, we were getting headaches.
    When we replaced the furnace, all that got better.

    A leaky tail pipe like hj mentioned wouldn't matter. A leak in the engine compartment, like at the exhaust manifold would.
    A hole or crack in the exchange fills a home with carbon monoxide.
    It's horrible.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    If the furnace is not ancient, and not made by an unknown maker, the heat exchanger module is probably still available as a repair part. This is a labor intensive repair, so now the question becomes the cost/benfit analysis of repair vs. replace. Wild stab, without seeing it...this could be a 4 to 6 hour job. Cost of the part...guestimate $400. If it is under 10 years old, I can't see NOT repairing it. I would ask a different contractor, because his bid to replace the furnace seems WAY high, unless there is some air conditioning work in this picture as well. The dealer cost of say an 80,000 BTU 80% furnace would be around $500, marked up retail to you with warranty, maybe $1000. Now if you want a 90% or 94%, that does get to be a different story. Depends on how cold it is where you are whether there is a payback on that.

    As for "repairing" the heat exchanger, I think you see our point that from the liability standpoint, neither a contractor or a homeowner should attempt this. How reliable is the repair? What hidden defects go un-noticed? etc.
  10. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,246
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    If the furnace is a Carrier/Bryant/Payne it might fall under a recall that covers replacement of the heat exchanger.
  11. dmax56

    dmax56 Handyman

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    Okay, I'm getting the idea that you guys have a serious issue with some 'supposedly' invisible, odorless gas! JK!

    This furnace has to be 20 years or older...so, although there might be practicality from seller's perspective to try to save anything by replacing only the heat exchanger, even if it was available, it's worth the little bit extra to replace, and that there's 'no way' he'd find someone to do that repair anyway...you'd be crazy to try unless you were a crazy homeowner!...and will advise him to solicit other bids.

    I'm going to have to search here to see what I can do about taking care of my own unit...a gas-fired boiler for radiators. I replaced the anode and fill tube on my hot water heater, but hadn't thought at all about that on my boiler until now...it's got to have one somewhere!

    Thanks again folks! Appreciate all your comments and I'm sorry you had to bother posting warnings about CO...appreciated anyway!
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,631
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    WHY does it "have to have one somewhere"? Your boiler does NOT have a "fill tube or anode", so there is nothing you can do with it. And when it gets a "hole in the heat exchanger" you will know it because there will be water all over the room.
  13. dmax56

    dmax56 Handyman

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    Hmmm...just thought it must the same as a hot water heater, having a sacrificial anode to protect the metal...but I know you know more than me...and yes, figured out how I'd know my boiler is failing!
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