Understanding The Basics About Your Heat Exchanger

Monday, April 9th, 2018
get your commercial HVAC system inspected by a professional HVAC contractor in Amarillo, TX

Heat exchangers are the heart of your commercial HVAC system. This equipment transfers heat from one substance to another to heat or cool the air, then the blower distributes the air throughout your property via the duct work. The heat exchanger is the key to making your entire building warm or cool. If this component breaks down, your entire system could stop working. It is important to know the following signs that mean your heat exchanger may be damaged and how to care for your commercial HVAC system.


The presence of soot indicates that your HVAC system is generating more carbon than it should. Your heat exchanger runs on fuel, like oil, gas, and electricity. If there is soot, that could mean that your furnace is not burning up the gases in a safe manner. This issue can result in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your business.


If you see rust anywhere in your commercial HVAC system, that means that the water it contains is not being adequately stored or moved. Your HVAC system can both cool and heat your property and uses water to maintain proper operating temperatures. Rust may indicate that there is damage to the interior of your system.

Visible cracks

When your heat exchanger burns fuel normally, the excess (and dangerous) gases are trapped within and shunted outside the building via the furnace. If there are cracks, excess gases, soot, and other materials could leak out of the heat exchanger into your business.

Moving or flickering burner flames

The flame that helps in the heating process should be contained and constant. If there is flickering, that means that excess air is being shunted or allowed into the heat exchanger through a crack.

Water at the base of the furnace

Similar to rust, excess water could indicate internal damage to a number of components. Again, internal cracks or breaks could mean that dangerous gases are making their way into the building, rather than sent outside. Seeing water can also mean that there is insulation missing from certain components or that the drain line is broken, among other issues. If you see water leaking from anywhere within your HVAC system, it is best to contact an expert to help you find and repair the problem.

Strange odors

If you notice any strange smells, specifically odors resembling formaldehyde, there could be an issue with your commercial HVAC system. Smells are a good indicator of chemical processes that are occurring that cannot be seen. Formaldehyde odors mean that gases are not being moved outside the building, which is a problem most often caused by cracked heat exchangers.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

One of the most obvious signs there is an issue with your heat exchanger is if you or your family are experiencing symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. Common symptoms include nausea, irritation of the eyes, and disorientation. Carbon monoxide poisoning can come from a variety of sources, but a frequent culprit is a malfunctioning HVAC system.

Caring for your heat exchanger

The best way to care for your heat exchanger is through regular inspections and maintenance. A skilled commercial HVAC/R technician, armed with the right tools, can find cracks and seal them up before they become dangerous. The technician will also check for internal damage, blocked vents, broken blowers, dirty air filters, and overheating, which can lead to cracks. A professional will diagnose the entire system to ensure that your commercial HVAC system is working properly and safely.

What you can do to keep your heat exchanger working

The first step in caring for your heat exchanger, and your entire HVAC system, is to change your air filter at least every three to six months. However, it is best to check your filters at least every four weeks because some lower-rated air filters do not last longer than one month. During the winter, you may need to check air filters more frequently due to increased use. Clean HVAC filters catch dust, soot, and other debris and prevent them from getting into your heat exchanger.

You can also keep supply and return vents clear of obstructions like furniture, rugs, and other objects. Never shut vents because doing so can damage your commercial HVAC system. The obstructed airflow could cause serious damage to your heat exchanger and other components.

Finally, purchase carbon monoxide detectors and place them in every room of your business. These devices can detect the gas long before it accumulates to dangerous concentrations, which can keep you safe and prevent a major HVAC breakdown.

Get expert commercial HVAC services in Amarillo, Texas

If you notice any of these common issues, or others, call an experienced commercial HVAC technician as soon as possible. At Allen’s Tri-State Mechanical, Inc. in Amarillo, Texas, we have been serving clients for over 50 years throughout the Texas Panhandle. We provide services for commercial furnaces and HVAC/R systems, among other services. If you would like to learn more about our Commercial HVAC/R services, call us at (806) 376-8345 or Contact Us by email today. You can also visit us in person at 404 S. Hayden St. in Amarillo.