Any home or business that is heated with an oil furnace runs the risk of experiencing a furnace puff back. If you aren’t familiar with puff backs, they are caused when an oil burner doesn’t immediately ignite, allowing oil fumes to build up prior to ignition. The result is a small explosion, similar to a car backfiring, of the un-burned oil that sends soot through the furnace or boiler’s exhaust system and/or air ducts right into your house or business – coating walls, bedding, drapes, furniture and more. Buildup of debris can be another culprit for an explosion at ignition. Puff backs can also take place slowly over a long period of time, with each ignition releasing a small amount of soot that gradually collects over every surface. Home or business owners with a forced air system will suffer the most as heating ducts can quickly spread black soot through your entire home of office.
The problem with puff back soot is that it also contains a small amount of oil, making it sticky and very difficult to clean. It also tends to have a very strong, smoke-like odor. Depending on how bad the puff back is, you may need to temporarily vacate your home of business until the soot has been cleaned and removed.
If you think you have experienced a puff back, you should immediately call a repair company to fix the furnace. Your next call should be to a professional cleaning company, like Octagon Cleaning & Restoration, to begin work on cleaning all the soot and chemicals before it begins to seep into curtains, carpets, furniture and other fabrics. Professionals cleaners will have the necessary chemicals and equipment to clean all the surfaces and items impacted by the puff back, as well as clean your home or office duct work if any soot made its way into the ducts. Do NOT try to clean up the soot yourself as household cleaners will not be sufficient and could result in more damage. In most cases, your insurance company will cover any soot damage to your house and possessions as a result of a puff back, however any furnace repairs would likely not be covered.
The best way to prevent a costly and potentially damaging puff back from happening in the first place is by keep your oil burner in good working condition. Be sure to schedule annual cleanings and inspections. Also make sure you keep your heating system free of dust, and do not allow oil levels to drop too low in your tank. Keep an eye out for warning signs, like leaks in the oil supply piping. If you have experienced soot damage from a puff back, please call our restoration experts at (207) 893-0002 in Maine, or (603) 239-2100 in New Hampshire.