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Oil Furnace Puff Back – Epping, NH

Written by jsolloway on . Posted in , , .

A family in Epping, NH had their furnace severely malfunction.  The oil furnace puff back left soot and smoke all over their basement.  Devastated that the damage might be permanent and spread throughout their house, the family sought immediate help to clear the smoke and soot.

Puff Back – How it Occurs

 
Homeowners like the ones in Epping, NH, usually experience oil furnace puff backs when the weather is colder, and the furnace starts up for the first time in the winter months.  A puff back occurs when a boiler or furnace does not ignite properly.  Over time, oil and gas builds up within the combustion chamber.  If there is an excess of fuel in the chamber, a misfire may occur, causing an oil furnace puff back.  Depending on the accumulation of fuel, there can be anywhere from a small amount of smoke to a minor explosion.
 
While more common in oil-fired equipment, puff backs occur in both oil and gas furnaces and boilers.  Oil is more likely to dissipate than gas, so oil-fired heating system puff backs tend to be messier and create more soot than gas.  Oil furnaces and boilers require more maintenance than the gas-fired counterparts, which results in more puff back if the system isn’t properly maintained.
 
Another caution for concern is that the duct work for a forced-air system can spread soot to every room in the home.  If one experiences an oil furnace malfunction, one should get it taken care of as soon as possible to avoid having soot spread throughout their home.
 

Causes of a Puff Back

 
General causes for Puff backs are age-related wear and tear and the lack of an annual system maintenance.  Regardless of fuel type, furnaces and boilers should have an annual system check-up, which will help to prevent puff backs.
 
Aside from the general causes, there are more specific causes for an oil furnace puff back.  These include:

  • A leak at or near the combustion chamber
  • A clogged exhaust or chimney from dirt, rust, fuel residue, or corrosion
  • A cracked heat exchanger
  • Manually resetting the fuel system too often when it fails to ignite
  • A damaged oil fuse nozzle
  • A clogged burner from dirt, dust, rust, residue, or corrosion
  • A bad chimney installation or design
  • Lack of combustion air

Rules to Follow After a Puff Back

Trying to take care of an oil furnace puff back on your own is risky.  It is not recommended that one should perform a diagnostic test for their furnace after a puff back. It can be both dangerous and messy.  Instead, one should contact HVAC professionals to evaluate their furnace and verify a puff back has occurred.  The steps for a professional diagnostic test include:

  • Checking for fuel leaks around the combustion chamber for visible signs of a leak
  • Checking the exhaust for blockage
  • Holding a lit flame and performing a “candle check” near the exchanger with the blower on to examine if there are any cracks present
  • Inspecting the oil nozzle and burner assembly for damage with the understanding that this may have been damaged from the puff back rather than a cause

Cleaning up an Oil Furnace Puff Back

After retaining a HVAC professional to fix the furnace, the family in Epping, NH was quick to reach out to Soil-Away Cleaning and Restoration Services, a local business based in nearby Hooksett that has trained smoke and soot damage restoration professionals with over 25 years of experience.  The professional technicians from Soil-Away responded rapidly.
When the technicians arrived to Epping, they examined the puff back damage and prepared themselves to clean up the widespread oily soot.  Their clean-up process was highly professional and included cleaning up debris, HEPA vacuuming, duct cleaning, degreasing and using dry sponges to clean up soot on all surfaces and contents.  They also performed a smoke odor removal to ensure everything smelled great.
Don’t try to clean up an oil furnace puff back on your own.  It’s messy, dangerous, and better left for trained technicians.  If your oil furnace experiences a puff back, please call Soil-Away at (603) 641-6555 to clean up and restore your home.
 
By A. Phelps

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