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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Oil Furnace Dangers & Solutions

10/26/2015 (Permalink)

Oil furnaces pose few dangers if you have them cleaned and maintained properly.

‘Tis the season your oil furnace is on and hopefully purring. Modern oil furnaces and other heating systems are quite dependable. As a homeowner, you need to pay very little attention to them. Even when a breakdown occurs, a professional can usually solve the problem quickly.

But if your oil furnace isn’t well maintained, is faulty, or is aging you may be at risk for issues including carbon monoxide, soot, smoke, and puff backs. Here are some ways to protect your home and your family from oil furnace dangers.

Home Heating System Problem? Call SERVPRO Bloomfield/Enfield At (860) 216-2785

Danger #1: Carbon Monoxide
The most common danger of burning oil is the release of carbon monoxide into your home. A furnace functioning normally will produce by-products in the form of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and carbon monoxide. These gases are forced up your chimney and out of your house. In rare cases, oil furnaces pose a threat when dirty or malfunctioning.

Solution: Make sure your furnace is cleaned every year and is not malfunctioning.

Danger #2: Soot buildup
Oil soot is a by-product of combustion fuel. Its main components are carbon and sulfur. Oil soot can accumulate on the walls of a chimney and eventually fall to the base where it can end up on the furnace itself if the chimney is directly above it.

Soot can build up to a point where it can restrict the flow of flue gases up the chimney. That means some gases may have a hard time leaving your home—gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and carbon monoxide. A build up of carbon monoxide can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Solution: Install a carbon monoxide detector near the sleeping areas in your home. Be sure the alarm is loud enough to wake you. Don’t rely on a detector alone. Keep your oil furnace clean and in excellent working order. Have it inspected annually.

Check furnace connections to flue pipes and venting systems for signs of corrosion, leaks, rust gaps, or holes. Make sure your filters and filtering systems are free from dirt and debris. Inspect fans to ensure they’re venting gases out and not into the house. Keep the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger clean, up to date and free of debris.

If you notice cracks in the heat exchanger, the furnace must be replaced. Keep your chimney clear of bird and other animal nests that prevent flue gases from traveling up and out.

Danger #3: Smoke
A cold chimney flue causes smoke when the furnace first fires; however, if smoke continues it might mean your furnace is not fully burning the fuel oil or there could be another  problem.

Solution: Don’t attempt to troubleshoot or fix this on your own. Call for service.

Danger #4: Puff Backs
Puffbacks are not easy to deal with. A puffback is an explosion inside the burner chamber of your oil furnace. Although such explosions are usually small and confined to the burner chamber, they can do considerable harm to your oil heating system. Sometimes the burner will start easily and need only minor repairs and adjustments.

But puffbacks usually do more damage than that and can send soot and smoke throughout the house.


Solution: A puffback can have many causes but can almost always be traced to a lack of maintenance or a failure to make needed repairs. All heating systems – especially oil-fired systems – should be inspected, cleaned, and adjusted at least once a year by a qualified professional.

One point of inspection in an oil burner, for example, are the two electrodes that create a spark when the burner starts. This ignites oil sprayed into the chamber through a nozzle. If these electrodes become coated with carbon or soot or are not adjusted properly, the oil may fail to ignite. In such cases, a control is supposed to shut off the oil in about 30 seconds, but if the control malfunctions the oil will form a small puddle on the bottom of the burner chamber.

The next time the burner tries to start, the excess fuel in the chamber will cause a small uncontrolled explosion - a puffback - and a sudden dispersion of black smoke and soot throughout the house.

This isn’t a complete list of what can go wrong with an oil furnace. Look for more information in another upcoming blog post.

And remember that SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield is here to help. The team at SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield has specialized commercial cleaning training and experience. Call SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield (860.216.2785) anytime, 24/7.


SERVPRO of Bloomfield/Enfield
IICRC Certified
Ralph DiCristofaro, Nat Landon, Ron DeFeo
Certified SERVPRO technicians
Call 860.216.2785
24 hour emergency service

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