The one major item of concern in a house is the gas furnace heat exchanger. If it is leaking and the burners are discharging carbon monoxide gas, it could be fatal to you and your family.
Approximately 14% to 40% of seriously poisoned victims have delayed neurological symptoms and many families suffer health problems, ranging from general ill health to kidney and lung failures to mental retardation, due to low level carbon monoxide poisoning.
Heat exchangers have been used to separate toxic gas from household air for years and all heat exchangers get holes in them, often after only a few years.
Properly adjusted burners produce mostly harmless carbon dioxide and water.
A properly adjusted furnace would not be dangerous even if the heat exchanger had a hole in it.
On the other hand, a burner that produces carbon monoxide is always a major health hazard, for sooner or later combustion products will escape into the household air from almost any unit. Holes and cracks in the heat exchanger can not be ignored.
Heat exchangers develop small fatigue cracks because of the constant thermal expansion and contraction that occurs each time the furnace cycles on and off. Other small holes occur when welded joints pop open.
Any furnace over five years old is likely to have a few such flaws in its heat exchanger, but these minor flaws are not likely to be very dangerous.
However these minor flaws may indicate other possibly dangerous concerns and they should be referred to a specialist.
Heat exchangers eventually develop larger holes caused by corrosion. These should not be ignored.
Early failures can be expected when laundry bleach, chlorinated tap water, paint remover, “permanent wave” hair treatments, paint thinner, snow removing salt, and many other chloride emitting chemicals release fumes that could enter the furnace (the chlorides may produce hydrochloric acid inside the furnace).
A specialist will typically recommend replacement, either of the heat exchanger or of the furnace.
A simple test to determine if the furnace is producing carbon monoxide is to watch the flames when the furnace is running. If the flames in a gas furnace are burning yellow, carbon monoxide is usually produced.
If the flames flicker or lean more as the house fan comes on (a couple of minutes after ignition), call a specialist, there is more than likely a hole in the heat exchanger.
If you see any rust, any rust holes, holes from broken welds, major crack fatigue cracks, etc., call a specialist like Houston water damage recovery.
If there are any carbon deposits or dark areas around any of the registers, suspect a faulty heat exchanger. If you experience eye irritation or smell something that smells like formaldehyde, call a specialist.
If your windows sweat excessively or have peeling paint from the siding you may have moisture migrating out through the walls. The moisture could be coming from a faulty heating system.
It is always wise to have your furnace cleaned, inspected, and adjusted on a yearly basis. Select an HVAC specialist that you feel comfortable with and one that will give you the information that you should have, whether you like it or not.