Furnace Puffbacks – More Than Just Blowing Smoke

| Heating

Think running out of oil is bad? How about having burned, smelly oil soot spread throughout your home?

A furnace puffback is a malfunction of an oil-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater where unburned fuel from the furnace’s combustion chamber is expelled back into the home. This can cause a sudden explosion-like sound and release a cloud of soot and other particulate matter into the air and surrounding surfaces. In their worst form, puffbacks can be dangerous and can lead to oil residue contamination and fire. The problem is most often caused by a poorly operating heating system that needs professional attention.

The strength of a puffback explosion can vary. It will depend on the amount of oil that is ignited, the heater appliance type, the condition of the equipment, and so on. The blowback ignition can damage your furnace. If it is strong enough, it can even cause your stack pipe to become disconnected, increasing the later risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The soot release from continuous puffbacks can be gradual or abrupt. A light explosion may just leave black dust around the heating unit. Stronger explosions can spread soot throughout your house. This soot and particulate matter contain dangerous particles that can cause respiratory problems and other health issues.

In addition, the soot and debris can settle on walls, windows, furniture, carpets, and other surfaces. This can lead to costly cleaning and restoration expenses.

But before a catastrophic and potentially explosive puffback occurs, you’ll generally have some warning in the form of gas odors and soot.

gas boiler that needs repair

Signs that your oil-burning furnace or boiler is not burning properly include:

  • Black soot and debris on top of your boiler, furnace, or water heater.
  • Soot stains on the ceiling or wall surfaces around the unit area.
  • Soft rumbling sounds from your burner after the furnace run cycle ends. Noises when your oil burner begins each run cycle. It may sound like a puff or bang. This is probably the unburned oil igniting.
  • Oil leaks or air leaks in the oil piping system or at the burner

If your unit experiences any of these warning signs, your system should be inspected and repaired.

One of the best ways to prevent puffbacks and oil soot contamination is to have all of your oil-fired heating appliances serviced regularly, normally once a year. During the rest of the year, be alert for odd smells and oil leaks. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, immediately call your heating service company.

Based in Newburgh, NY, Go Green Express Home Services provides heating installation, repair and maintenance services to Orange County, Dutchess County, Ulster County and Putnam County, New York.