Puffbacks Part I

Puffbacks, What Are They And How Can They Be Prevented?

As fall approaches we look forward to seeing all the colors.  However those colors mean that it’s getting cooler, and as a result our furnaces will be running.  In many cases it will be the first time in months.  As a result we often see an increase in puffbacks.  So what causes these puffbacks, and how can we prevent them?  In this post we are going to review the cause of puff backs and how to identify if you have one.

The Cause

Now we aren’t going to go into an in depth explanation of how a furnace works thankfully!  The simple fact is that a puffback (or puff back) is the result of an explosion of unburnt fuel in your boiler, furnace, or fireplace.

There are several factors that can cause this explosion.  A malfunction with the heating system causes excess fuel to accumulate in the combustion chamber.  This excess fuel then ignites causing an explosion.  Debris in the combustion chamber, or by an exposed flame can also have a similar effect.

Oil burning boilers and furnace are the most common source of puffbacks.  However LP and propane furnaces, and fire places can also malfunction as well.

How to identify if you have a puffback?

There are several ways to identify whether or not you have had a puffback.  With oil furnaces you may smell a fuel odor in your home.  It will smell like there’s an open fuel container.  This is actually soot accumulating in your home.

You may notice that the corners of the walls look dirty.  This is actually soot accumulating in your home.  As it gets worse you will see the nails, and framing members in your drywall.

You may also start seeing “spider webs” all over.  Now these are not actual “spider webs”!  They’re soot webs.  Soot particles join and begin forming webs or chains that at first glance appear to be “spider webs”.  This is not the result of poor house keeping, but the result of a puffback.

What to do?

What happens if you notice the smell, or the visual signs of a soot job?  Soot is VERY difficult to clean.  You may try to clean things yourself and notice that it just smears.  Don’t worry this is totally normal.

Soot different than regular dust or dirt.  It requires special cleaning agents.  The cleaning is also very extensive.  Soot is spread through the movement of air in a home.  So where ever the air goes the soot follows.  Usually the entire home needs to be cleaned including clothing and bedding.

So how do you take care of it?   Soot is very caustic, so there are things that you can/need to clean right away.  Clean crystal, china, and silverware first.  Use liquid dishwashing detergent to cut, and remove the soot.  Then use regular house cleaning agents to finish the cleaning process.  You’ll notice though that the soot is everywhere!  How do you tackle a job of these epic proportions?

CALL A PROFESSIONAL!  ProJan specializes in soot clean up.  We handle all of your cleaning needs from the content cleaning, to the carpet cleaning, to the dry cleaning.  We will come and evaluate how extensive you loss is, and identify the best measures to take.  Your home will quickly return to normal!

The next post…

In our next post we will discuss steps to prevent this from happening in the first place.  So till then enjoy the autumn colors!

Posted in Restoration.

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