What is a puff back
A puff back is basically a premature explosion inside an oil furnace which results in the smoke, fumes, chemicals and oil being carried out through the heating ducts and pipes instead of the actual heat. One possible explanation of this occurrence is when there is a gradual build up of oil within the chambers of the furnace which can result in an eventual puff back. Another reason is if one of the components of the furnace is malfunctioning.
The effects of a puff back can actually be quite severe depending on the case. Either way, handling the situation will cost a lot of time and money that could have been avoided if the proper precautionary measures were taken. If not than you will have to suffer its many consequences. The first and most obvious of which is the structural damage that it may cause. Puff backs usually involve smoke, fumes and oil running through your heating ducts which means that eventually, the connected rooms will be covered in soot and stains. Considering that these furnaces are oil based, the soot will also have a mixture of oil which means it will be nearly impossible to remove. This effect actually varies from case to case. There are times when the puff back is very mild but constant. In that case, the amount of soot being spread out through the heating ducts will only be noticeable after a while. For some cases though, the puff back is very sudden and powerful which has the heating ducts spewing smoke and oil at an alarming rate. Aside from the obvious soot that would start to cover up your furniture, walls and ceiling, a puff back also creates a foul odor that can be unhealthy and hazardous to people.
Not only do puff backs require some major cleanup procedures but it is also a signal that your furnace has to be replaced or repaired. Both of these processes can be extremely costly and time consuming so the best approach is to try to avoid these problems altogether.
How should it be handled
If in the unfortunate event that you do experience a puff back, it is important to know what your options are in dealing with the situation. Luckily, there are many emergency cleaning services that can help you remove the soot from the affected areas of your house. As mentioned, oil based soot is extremely difficult to remove so there may be items that you will not be able to recover even with the help of professionals. Aside from your furniture that has to be cleaned, remember to thoroughly wash all your clothing even if they were not directly in contact with the soot. The smoke and fumes that passed through the heating system could have spread all over the house even if its effects are not visible to the eye. As for your food, it is best to throw away all those that were left exposed. The last thing you need is to deal with poisoning from all the chemicals and toxic waste that was spewed out during the puff back. These dangerous chemicals can easily stick to exposed food with any visible evidence.
Although the cleanup process may seem simple, it is hardly a scenario that any household should want to go through. For one, you will not be able to live in your house during the duration of the cleanup process. Two, your hard earned cash would be going to the reparation of an event that could have been easily avoided. Lastly, neglecting your duty to properly maintain your house puts your family and household in danger due to the health hazards posed by the chemicals, smoke and fumes. In a nut shell, avoiding this kind of situation altogether is the best approach regarding puff backs.
To recap how a puff back situation should be handled, here is a short check list of things you should do.
*Assess the situation and the amount of damage that was done
*Wash all affected clothing and fabrics in the house
*Throw away all the exposed food
*Call a cleaning service to take care of the soot and chemicals
*Call a repairman to fix the malfunctioning oil furnace
Remember also that if you do decide to do your own assessments and cleaning, that you have to wear the proper gear. Use gloves, a gas mask and wear extra clothing to protect yourself from the residual smoke and the chemicals that you may encounter.
How can it be avoided
Just like any other household problem, it is very much possible to avoid puff backs. All it requires is your due diligence in performing the necessary tasks to keep everything in check. Regularly attending to your heating system and replacing what needs to replaced can significantly decrease the chances of a puff back occurring.
Other alternative to avoiding a puff back is by completely replacing your heating system. There are many options to choose from today, one of the more popular being an electrical system. That kind of system completely eliminates the chances of a puff back although it does cost a lot more. This is because it uses electrical energy that is converted to heat and run through the heating ducts. What makes it more expensive is the technology that is used and the source itself.
What are the health hazards of puff backs
Regardless if it is gradual or sudden, a puff back situation can be very hazardous to the health of those nearby. Individually, soot, chemicals, oil and smoke are already hazardous to one’s health but in a puff back, all those things are combined which magnifies the problem. The most common disease that will most likely come up if one is constantly exposed to a puff back is heart disease. If a person inhales all that smoke and chemicals, it can harden and thicken arteries which significantly increase the chances of heart complications and blood clotting. Clogged arteries can lead to a stroke or paralysis which can lead to permanent damage at times.
Another disease that may arise from prolonged exposure to puff backs and its byproducts is cancer. The chemicals that are released can create cancers in the colon, brain, kidney, bladder and other places in the body. Of course the most common is lung cancer since some of the chemicals can easily stick to your lungs and cause serious damage.
Another health complication that may arise is chronic pulmonary disease which includes many illnesses related to the decaying and malfunctioning of the lungs and respiratory system. The more common illnesses associated to chronic pulmonary lung disease are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Other related illnesses and symptoms from exposure to smoke, soot and other chemicals are the activation of asthma in some people, the infertility of women and the erectile dysfunction of men. These are less known but are still possible health hazards. Most of these illnesses, diseases and symptoms are quite serious which, hopefully, drives home the point that it is a situation that you do not want to encounter at all.
The following is a more comprehensive list of the different illnesses and diseases that are related to smoke and chemical exposure
*Coronary heart disease
*Ischaemic heart disease
What are the cures to these health hazards
Unfortunately, most of the diseases and illnesses that were mentioned cannot be completely cured. So far there have been therapies and procedures to relieve the pain and decrease the effects of these diseases but still no absolute solution to eliminate them. This further emphasizes the deadly consequences that you face for being irresponsible and exposing yourself to the risks of a puff back.
For heart diseases, it is very difficult to monitor whether there is a blood clot that is present or if your arteries are getting clogged. Their symptoms usually manifest very suddenly and by that time, it is usually too late. Surgical procedures have gone a long way in addressing heart problems but the delicate nature of the organ that is being dealt with will always be there.
As for cancer, it is still a very prevalent disease that the field of medicine has no answer for. The best solution against it is to prevent it from happening altogether. Dealing with cancer is very painful and expensive as the most common treatment is chemotherapy.
Basically, that gravity of the illnesses and diseases related to smoke and chemical exposure is far too heavy for anyone not to take it seriously. If preventing these diseases is going to take a few extra dollars and an hour of your time then it is probably worth it.
Looking back at what has been written, it seems that a harmless, premature combustion inside an unmaintained furnace can really go a long way in ruining your own life as well as the lives of others. You should remember that even just the smallest mistakes can snowball into very big consequences. Doing your part and being responsible will definitely go a long way in keeping things safe and manageable.