First of all, “it’s not a recall,” says Hill. “A recall would be a safety-related issue where the manufacturer directs their customers to seek out a repair. That’s not the case here. Also in the case of a recall, new furnaces would have different parts in them. And that’s not the case here, either.”
To be fair, he notes, this is a complex issue that is linked to a class action suit. But the outcome was Carrier actually offering a better warranty for all existing and future owners of furnaces that contain polypropylene (PPL) heat exchangers. As of that settlement date in 2007, all existing owners of those qualifying furnaces instantly were awarded an enhanced warranty that includes labor to replace the secondary heat exchanger if it were to fail within the first 20 years of its life. On the other hand, if the homeowner chooses to replace rather than repair, the enhanced warranty allows for a significant credit towards a new Carrier furnace.
According to Hill, these are the key points:
- Not a recall. This applies only if you encounter a secondary heat exchanger failure. The majority of these furnaces are still in the field and working just fine. Homeowners who are concerned should have their furnaces inspected annually, which is a good idea for any gas furnace.
- Not a safety issue. If the heat exchanger fails, the furnace will “fail safe.” The worst thing that could happen is a “low heat” or a “no heat” condition.
- The enhanced warranty is a good thing. Carrier is standing behind their product and paying out labor for furnaces that are 10, 15, even 20 years-old. As an industry norm, high efficiency furnaces have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, yet Carrier will pay for labor to repair or money to replace these old furnaces.
- Watch out for bad advice: Uninformed contractors have replaced perfectly good heat exchangers, and not-so-scrupulous contractors have taken advantage of this situation and misled many homeowners using scare tactics. This has only served to further confuse and spread the “recall” message. These are not our authorized Carrier dealers. Legitimate Carrier dealers are well informed on this issue and will not mislead or perform unnecessary repairs. And if they do replace the heat exchanger, they will do it for minimal or no cost to the homeowner.
- This was not a “bad design” or “bad manufacturing.” For many years after the settlement, Carrier continued to make PPL secondary heat exchangers. In fact, it is a very good design, in many ways better than stainless steel tubular heat exchangers.
Hill says Carrier switched to stainless steel tubular heat exchangers in 2012, but only because they wanted to make a shorter furnace. “Tubular stainless steel heat exchangers are much shorter than PPL heat exchangers,” he explains. “The industry has been moving to shorter furnaces due to space restrictions in homes and air conditioning coils getting bigger. Plus they are easier to install, keeping labor costs down.” Hill says the entire industry has moved to furnaces that are 34-36 inches tall, compared to older units that were 40-48 inches tall.