How many years do heat exchangers normally last?
Your home depends on a properly functioning furnace to keep your family warm and cozy during the coldest days and nights of the year. A properly functioning wood boiler heat exchanger, is necessary for your furnace to operate. It is one of the most crucial component of your heating system, and any issues with it run the risk of causing a failure. And nobody wants to wake up in the morning to a cold house!
Outdoor Wood Stove heat exchangers allow heat to be transferred without mixing between different liquids and gasses, in this case, hot water and air.
An outdoor wood-burning boiler heat exchanger's lifespan can vary based on a number of factors, including the type of heat exchanger, its design, the working environment, and the maintenance procedures. A heat exchanger can, however, often last for 15 to 20 years or more with good care and normal operating circumstances.
For an Outdoor Wood Boiler, several types of heat exchangers are used, such as finned-tube water-to-air heat exchangers, water-to-water brazed plate heat exchangers, and tube and shell heat exchangers. Each type has distinctive characteristics and longevity considerations.
FACTORS THAT CAN AFFECT THE LIFESPAN OF A HEAT EXCHANGER
The life of a heat exchanger can be affected by a number of factors, such as:
- Material selection: The materials used in the construction of the heat exchanger are crucial. Materials that are resistant to corrosion can considerably increase longevity.
- Operating circumstances. The heat exchanger's durability may be influenced by the temperature, pressure, and fluid characteristics of the system. Harsh fluids or extreme working conditions may accelerate wear and shorten lifespan.
- Maintenance. By performing routine cleaning, inspections, and repairs, you may spot problems early on and take preventative measures that will extend the life of your heat exchanger.
- Sediment Build-up. Sediment is the "Secret Killer" of outdoor furnaces. It will eat through steel, AND cause electrolysis damage to your water jacket - holes in your boiler are very bad.
HOW IMPORTANT IS A FILTER FOR YOUR OUTDOOR WOOD STOVE
We get calls from outdoor furnace owners whose systems are from 3 to 7 years old and who need to replace all their heat exchangers at great cost. This could have been prevented if they had a filter.
Read our blog “What Happens To Your Outdoor Furnace Without a Filter?” to know more about filter installation and what it’s important to install one for your system.
We also prepared a pre-assembled Outdoor Boiler Filter Kit for you. This kit is the PEX version, and it contains all the fittings needed, along with the complete filter assembly, fittings, and bypass, but does not include short pieces of PEX which are typically supplied from leftover pieces from the installation process.
What can go wrong with a heat exchanger?
The most common reason for a failed or cracked heat exchanger is normal wear and tear. The thin metal walls are constantly exposed to high temperatures when you use your furnace. The metal then expands and contracts and will cause stress cracks to grow due to repeated heating and cooling cycles.
THREE SIGNS OF A FAILED HEAT EXCHANGER
- Cracks. This is common for water-to-air heat exchangers. Visual verification is a clear indication that your heat exchanger is damaged. However, due to the location in your plenum, or bends in the metal and other components blocking your view, it is often difficult to discover these flaws without removing portions of the furnace. The most obvious sign of a crack is water leaking on the floor.
- Audible sounds. If the heat exchanger has a crack, you may hear hissing or dripping. Because it is constructed from metal, cracks will expand and shrink as it heats, which may cause audible rattling, popping, and/or banging noises.
- Slow or No Water Flow. If your heat exchanger is plugged up with sediment, the water flow will be restricted or stopped. If the outdoor boiler water is hot, but your indoor PEX tubing is not hot, and you are not burning much wood, you have a flow problem that could be caused by a faulty pump, or a plugged heat exchanger.
PREVENTING DAMAGE TO YOUR WOOD BOILER HEAT EXCHANGER
Heat exchangers do not last forever. But here are some things you can do to extend the life of a heat exchanger:
- You should have a Water Filter. Not using a filter will cause damage to your heat exchanger which is more costly than even using a filter.
- Flush the boiler regularly to remove rust. We recommend a complete flush every 4 years. Also, please do the “Periodic Flush” every six months - just open the drain valve (at the outdoor boiler) for five seconds, or until the water runs clear. This will remove any excess sediment in the bottom of your boiler. Click HERE for more information.
It's important to note that these estimates are general guidelines, and the actual lifespan of a heat exchanger can vary. A heat exchanger's durability and efficiency must be ensured through routine inspections, maintenance, and adherence to manufacturer guidelines.
If you need a replacement for your heat exchanger, visit our online store OutdoorBoiler.com. Contact us or call our office at 231-861-8200 Mondays to Fridays 8 am to 6 pm EST for more information.