There are few disasters that can occur in your home worse than a “puff-back” from a fuel oil heating system which puts a sticky, powder like substance on EVERYTHING in your home. A puff-back is no laughing matter and can cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean, normally by a professional cleaning company and painting crew. A puff-back can occur in your home if you have oil heating and can happen on a small scale, possibly contained to the furnace room or basement or can be wide spread through your entire home.
A puff-back can be caused by a variety of reasons, but it all boils down to lack of maintenance or improper repairs to your fuel oil fired heating system. A faulty ignition switch can be a typical culprit when it fails to properly ignite the incoming oil. The oil and fumes build inside the combustion chamber, not going out the chimney or vent. If the ignition is delayed long enough, it’s possible that a small explosion will occur as the oil finally ignites causing every bit of dust and soot that lives in your furnace or home’s duct work to get the sooty residue attached to it – spreading through your entire home quickly. Expect to see it on walls, drapes, carpets, furniture, bricks, morter and every item everyplace between.
The soot is a black and sticky. This dirty residue needs to be cleaned from every inch of your home as soon as possible since the odor will penetrate deeper the longer it stays on surfaces. The odor is difficult to remove and often requires professionals to come in and get it out of the house. A professional certified home restoration company that is experienced in restoring homes from smoke damage should be called in. Often they will use a process called “thermal fogging” which must be done by professionals.
This situation can also be caused gradually over a longer period of time. You will notice the black, sticky soot accumulating on walls, carpets or heating duct louvers.
There is no 100% guaranteed way to be sure you’ll never have a puff-back, but proper annual maintenace by a qualified, trained service provider that has continual training and modern electronic calibration testing equipment to make sure your heating system is running at optimal efficiency. Long gone are the days where the do-everything plumber could “tune-up” your heating system by using his eye and experience. Today’s heating systems require training and very often the capability of plugging in a portable laptop computer & electronic combustion analyzer that makes sure you’re getting the most heating from every gallon and cuts down the risk of costly problems in the cold winter ahead.
CES has been servicing heating systems for over 45 years (fuel oil, kerosene and propane gas) with an experienced staff that gets continual training all year and have the most up-to-date testing & calibration equipment on the market. There’s a reason why thousands of area residents trust CES to keep their family warm & safe – we do things right!