What Problems Are Common with HVAC Heat Exchangers?

November 16, 2022

The heat exchanger is often considered the most important among the various heating system parts. This is often attributed to the fact that your system and comfort could be significantly impacted by its failure. By being aware of the typical causes of heat exchanger failure, you can avoid an urgent heating system breakdown. This article will explore the most common HVAC heat exchanger problems and provide tips on what causes them.

Heat Exchanger Cracking

The heat exchanger's metal material could crack over time. When this occurs, it will release combustion gases into the air stream, which could be hazardous to your health. Carbon monoxide is typically the most dangerous of these gases. Metal cracks are easy to spot because they are visible to the naked eye; however, it is best to get a second opinion from professionals if you are unsure whether the heat exchanger has cracks.

Heat Exchanger Rusting

Corrosive condensation, in which moisture accumulates internally and externally, causes rust on the heat exchanger. Rust will slowly corrode the metal if it is not treated right away. High-efficiency furnaces or heaters with an AFUE rating of over 90 frequently rust due to their integrated drainage system. Once the condensate lines are blocked, the flue gases cannot correctly escape, which results in the metal rusting from the inside out.

Aluminum heat exchanger with copper pipes

Heat Exchanger Fouling

Due to the restricted fluid flow and combined characteristics of hydrodynamic and thermal boundary layers, heat exchangers typically develop "fouling." This means that the surface of the heat exchanger wall will develop another layer of solid material. This condition then impacts the overall operational procedures of your heating system. Optimizing heat exchanger designs is one of the most effective ways to reduce fouling.

Heat Exchanger Chemically Induced Corrosion

Corrosion in the heat exchanger is brought on by the intricate chemical reactions between the fluids and other materials moving through the exchanger. The exchanger's shell, tube, sheet, and other components may all experience corrosion. While it may be hard to limit this, regular maintenance can help remove chemical compounds that might lead to corrosion.

Heat Exchanger Overloading

Serious issues could develop if the heat exchanger is overloaded. Your heating system might not function as effectively as it should when the load flowing through the exchanger is dramatically high. You could ask your HVAC contractor to update the heat exchanger engineering to fix this problem. Additional solutions might also be offered depending on your heating system's condition and requirements.

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