Understanding Construction Costs

Experiencing Oil Burner Puff Backs? Blame The Pipe Leak

An oil-burner puff back is a condition that arises when there is a sudden ignition of too-much-to-handle oil in the combustion chamber of the boiler. The most common symptom of this condition is the blowing of soot throughout a home, something that usually necessitates costly restoration and cleaning efforts. However, depending on how much excess oil exists in the combustion chamber and the overall condition of the boiler, the effects can be worse. It can end up disconnecting parts of the boiler, such as the stack pipe, and may sometimes even destroy the boiler – something that may put the safety of your loved ones at risk. 

Understanding a puff back

When a heater's oil supply piping is leaking or when one of its oil flow regulation parts is defective, too much oil can find its way to the combustion chamber. The ignition of the excess oil in the chamber then results in rapid expansion of gases, something that then increases the pressure in the chamber.   

If the resulting explosion isn't too violent, then the effects of the resultant expansion may be limited to simply messing with the pressure balance of the heating system, something that may then send soot flowing into your home. But if there's too much of excess oil in the chamber, then the resulting expansion may be enough to damage parts of the boiler.

Puff backs and oil supply piping leaks

Leaks in the oil supply piping usually increase the risks of a puff back mainly because of the fact that the leak points usually provide entry points for air bubbles. This is a problem since the incoming oil has to be compressed in the fuel unit before it goes to the combustion chamber. When this happens, the air bubbles introduced into the system are also compressed, something that causes no problems right until the system's run cycle comes to an end -- a process that is accompanied by a drop in pressure.

The sudden drop in pressure then causes the pressurized air bubbles to rapidly expand. By so doing, they end up forcing unburned oil through the nozzle and into the combustion chamber. This excess oil may then be to blame for the potentially dangerous puff back that you may experience during the beginning of the system's next on-cycle.

Given that a boiler oil leak not only causes unnecessary oil losses and restoration costs but also creates a potentially dangerous environment in your home, it is important that you seal any leaks in your system as soon as they are detected.