If you use a boiler or furnace to heat your home, then the heat exchanger is the bread and butter of your heating system. The heat exchanger takes the heat from the furnace or boiler and transfers it to air or water. A forced air system uses a heat exchanger to heat air which is pushed through the ducts to heat the home.
A radiant heat system uses the heat exchanger to heat water that flows through systems like radiators or sub-floor PEX hose. If the heat exchanger fails, then heat in the home will fail or be tremendously less effective. The following article will show you how to install a new heat exchanger when yours is no longer doing its job.
Step 1 - Safety First
Working around a boiler or furnace is nearly as dangerous as working with electricity. If you're not careful you could disconnect or puncture hoses and pipes that carry steam. If you do this, you'll get a quick trip to the emergency room for severe burns. Before you install the heat exchanger make sure that power is off at the main breaker.
Wait for the furnace or boiler to cool down. You'll be able to tell by the radiant heat coming from the unit, a heat gauge or by sound. Since you do this with the power off it is a good idea to do so in warmer weather. You should also wear your work gloves because there are sharp edges that could easily cut you.
Step 2 - Removing the Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is located behind a panel on the boiler or the furnace. Use the screwdriver to remove any panels in the front of the furnace or boiler that you can. The heat exchanger is located behind these, and it is these panels that can cut you so be careful. You will be able to identify the heat exchanger as there will be pipes and tubing coming off of it.
Another key indicator that identifies the heat exchanger is that resembles a bulky version of a metal panel. Use your pen and paper to write down where each hose, pipe, clamp or any other extruding part connects to the heat exchanger. It is also very helpful if you take a picture of the heat exchanger to future reference. Begin removing all of the fittings connected to the heat exchanger until you can remove it from the furnace.
Step 3 - Installing the Heat Exchanger
If you took pictures of the previous heat exchanger and drew a diagram of the connections, then this is a very easy step to complete. Consult the instructions with the new heat exchanger in case you need to remove any current fittings or hardware and replace them with what's in your kit. Otherwise, you merely need to reconnect the hardware, hoses and pipes to the new exchanger in the same way as the old. Let the furnace sit for several hours before replacing the panels and returning the power.