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A Bad Heat Exchanger Is Like A Bad Robot

Pictured above is a very old heat exchanger from a furnace we recently replaced. A heat exchanger, whether in a boiler of a furnace, is the principal internal component that transfers heat from the burners to either water or air. This sealed component is what allows for a clean transfer of heat without any combustion related contaminants.

This particular heat exchanger is unusual in it’s age, shape and material make-up. It’s a very heavy cast steel. The phrase “they don’t make them like that anymore” could easily be applied here. And, if left undisturbed, it might last another 50 years – as a solid piece of steel. But two things (there are more) led to it’s demise. First is the controls that make the system work. After a certain point both the principal manufacturer (if still in business) discontinues making parts because so few of these units are still in existence out in the field, and the secondary market (third party vendors) also cease parts support.

More importantly it’s what cannot be seen by the naked eye that spells doom for these units. And that is small cracks in the steel itself. While seemingly innocuous when seen by an inspection camera, these cracks will eventually develop into larger cracks due to the dynamics of heat/cool cycles. These cracks are a pathway to carbon monoxide entering the air that you breathe if this is a furnace based heating system. This is not only a serious heath issue, it could very well prove to be lethal.

No one wakes up on a given day and thinks; I’ll change my furnace today! But when shown the evidence of a cracked heat exchanger, it is a powerful motivating factor.

With a little imagination this old fellow could be a Steampunk Robot from the late 1800s. It might even take on a human shape; standing upright on legs, a barrel body. But unlike Robby the Robot from the great Fred M. Wilcox 1956 movie “Forbidden Planet”, this is a Bad Robot. A very, very deadly Bad Robot.

At Verne & Ellsworth Hann, we’ve been dealing with Bad Robots for a long time. If there’s one in your basement, call the experts at 216-932-9755.

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