Majority of homeowners have the slightest idea of what puff back is all about, much less what it can do to the house, apartment, or any building. For the most part, many if not all homeowners are more preoccupied with the management of the more commonly perceived domestic problems like water damage and mold remediation issues. Because of this seemingly indifferent attitude by most homeowners about puff back and its consequent damage, education is thus very important in arresting the deterioration of one’s home.
The Basics of Puff Back
Puff back occurs because a heating device, such as an oil burner, has failed to function properly. More often than not the combustion chamber of these heating fixtures creates an explosion because of the very rapid ignition of oil vapors and built-up unstable gas inside the chamber. The resulting explosion ruptures the chamber canister and ejecting oily and greasy projectiles into the air and into surfaces directly under the blown out segment.
In certain instances, the rupture may be very minimal that it is hardly recognizable. The only way homeowners can even entertain the idea of the presence of a puff back is when ash- or dust-like particles are observed in wall and floor surfaces beneath the heat ducts of the house. One way to distinguish puff back particles from ordinary household dust is that they reappear a few hours after thoroughly cleaning the area of these dust-like particles. If these were only dust, it would take more than several hours before they can accumulate to significant levels as to become very noticeable.
Puff back particles on the other hand can readily accumulate on the same spot over and over even with continuous cleaning because the particles are continuously being ejected from the damaged vents above.
Danger in Puff Back
The danger in the puff back is more readily evident in violent puff back incidents although the slowly-developing puff back should still merit the same kind of concern. The risk greatly increases as the released fumes find their way into the heating ducts of the home where they can potentially spread to unsuspecting members of the household.
Since the puff back particles are mostly made up of either petroleum or oil, depending on the type of heating device installed in the home, the volatile gases can readily stick to furniture, fixtures, and virtually all around the house. More importantly, and this should raise the red flag, these soot-like particles can be inhaled by highly susceptible members of the household. When this happens, a variety of respiratory problems may develop over time. Seemingly innocuous and unrelated symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and incessant cough may already signal the development of a potentially more serious respiratory problem.
In most cases of undiagnosed puff back related respiratory problems, the signs and symptoms closely resemble that of asbestosis or ‘coal man’s lung’. The puff back particulates are microscopic that they can readily pass the various host defenses of the respiratory passages. Once they get through these defenses, they lodge in the air sacs of the lungs impeding with the optimal exchange of gases.
Another danger of puff back particles is that these do contain carbon dioxide which, if not detected and left to accumulate on its own, can lead to nausea, light-headedness and dizziness. In severe cases, carbon dioxide toxicity can occur which is slightly less severe than carbon monoxide poisoning.
Managing Puff Back
These, aside from the damage puff back incidents bring to property, are enough reasons why homeowners should carefully consider managing this threat with the same tenacity as they would approach a water damage problem. Although the most reliable and easiest way to solve such problems is by calling an oil-burner expert who will repair the furnace, there are still a variety of things you can do to preclude such incidents from wreaking havoc in your home.
1. Calling for professional companies that offer fire and smoke damage cleanup and restoration services is perhaps the best alternative to having the oil burner repaired. The reason for this is that the mechanism upon which puff back occurs is closely associated with the exact same mechanism involved in fires and smoke. Now, the ideal thing to do is for you to call professional cleaners and restorers within the first 48 hours of the puff back incident. This is very crucial because you need to prevent further puff back damage at the fastest possible time.
2. These professional companies will perform thermal fogging in order to remove the smoke odor that is common in puff back incidents. The odor sticks to various surfaces of the home because it is essentially made up of oily puff back particulates.
3. For the most part of their service, professional companies will include a thorough diagnostic assessment of the structural integrity of the entire house. This is done in order to establish any structural issues that may require remediation before any serious cleaning and restoration can be initiated at all.
4. Once structural issues have been corrected or integrity ascertained, professional companies can begin cleaning the whole house and not just the area where the puff back is visibly noted. These can include cleaning of even the deepest recesses in the house as well as hard-to-reach areas to make sure that puff back particles are removed from these surfaces. In some instances, clothing, upholstery and other fabric-based objects and items are also thoroughly cleaned.
Now, of course, for homeowners who dislike the idea of hiring someone else to do the cleaning and restoration, you can always do it yourself. All you basically need are the right cleaning tools and the proper knowledge with which to carry it out and you are good to go. Attach a brush head to your ordinary household vacuum cleaner nozzle in order to clean puffed back furniture that are covered with upholstery or fabric. Make sure to cover these same furniture with a clean sheet of plastic to protect them from further puff back damage.
An Ounce or a Pound
With the rather unexpected nature of puff back incidents, it is apparent that preventive measures will provide more good than actually managing a puff back. For homeowners, here are a few simple things they can perform to prevent the occurrence of puff back in their respective homes.
1. As much and as frequently as you possibly can, regularly check your oil burner for optimum functioning. If you are not at all privy to how this is performed, you can initially hire the services of a professional oil burner expert to check the condition of your oil burner. Watch him how the checkup and basic maintenance is carried out so you will be able to carry them out yourself next time. If you are not sure if the oil burner is reparable or not, you have better replace the entire system rather than risk having a puff back.
2. During your periodic maintenance checkup of your oil burner, pay very close attention to the presence of debris that can cause the heating device to malfunction. Try to look for any signs of accumulated dirt, dust, debris, animal hair and other minute particles that may seem harmless at first.
3. Installing a carbon dioxide monitor in your house may sound absurd to some but this is a very sound advice especially to homeowners who may experience the slow or silent type of puff back. Remember that, just like smoke, puff back contains mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor in addition to the various particulate matter produced from the combustion process. Carbon dioxide monitors can detect any significant increases in carbon dioxide levels inside the home which can indicate a slowly occurring type of puff back. The major downside of this measure is the cost of a single unit of carbon dioxide monitor.
4. Try to inspect your fire box every now and then for any signs of deterioration. Incremental deterioration in the condition of the fire box has always been associated with a slow-occurring type of puff back incident.
5. Hire a home maintenance professional to check and make diagnostic assessments of the integrity of your furnace, fire box, and oil burner. Professionals have a very keen eye for even the tiniest detail such that they can readily detect problems which you might have otherwise overlooked during your own inspection. Furthermore, you can always ask a professional how you can readily spot trouble areas in your home system.
6. Try to look carefully for any signs or traces of soot especially in cold areas as well as those with metal and oil. Puff back particles and soot residue have a very strong affinity to these places such that you may want to include the refrigerator, outside walls and ceilings near the attic in your assessment.
Perhaps the most essential aspect of preventing puff back incidents is in learning all there is to know about the phenomenon. Although there is no foolproof guarantee that education will prevent puff back from ever happening in your home, it will, however, be able to reduce the likelihood of puff back from occurring.
With your puff back risk effectively managed, learning about it - including the ways to manage and prevent it - is essentially all the modern homeowner will ever need.