What Is A Soot Puffback? | Soot Damage in RI

What Is a Soot Puff Back?


Well, folks, it’s that time of the year again. Homeowners are turning on their heat for the first time as the weather here in Rhode Island gets a bit chillier. But all of a sudden *poof* a grey ash-like material causes a puff all over your ceiling and walls. 

Is this safe? What is this grey stuff? What do I do now?

Read on to learn more about soot damage and soot puff backs.

What Is a Soot Puff back? 

Also called a broiler or furnace puff back, a soot puff back is when fuel builds up in your furnace or heater’s combustion chamber and causes anything from a small amount of smoke to a minor explosion. Your broiler will backfire when you turn it on and shoot smoke and soot through your HVAC system into your home. The extent of the damage depends on how much fuel accumulated in the chamber.

On rare occasions, this can also happen with baseboard heating. It is not as common since copper piping is more confined. Soot puff backs must be taken care of immediately. 

What Causes Soot Puff backs? 

Furnace backfires like puff backs can have several causes, which usually relate to how well the separate components in your equipment function. Some common reasons for puff backs include: 

  • Clogged or broken fuel nozzle: Spray nozzles help produce flames that ignite oil or gas in the combustion chamber. When they malfunction, the flame might not reach all the fuel, leaving some unburned in the chamber. This buildup can lead to a soot puff back. 
  • Fuel pipe leaks: Holes in the fuel pipes can cause many problems, including soot puff backs. Air travels through the holes and pipes when the burner runs. Pressure decreases in the tubes after it turns off, causing the air bubbles to kick up unburned fuel back into the combustion chamber. 
  • Shutdown problems: Your furnace or broiler has a specified shutdown process that helps it maintain functionality and quality. If the burner nozzle doesn’t close correctly, fuel can spill into the combustion chamber when the device is off. A puff back can occur when you turn it back on. 
  • Fuel vent or exhaust issues: Your furnace or heater produces exhaust fumes and gases. These byproducts need a proper place to go so they don’t interfere with internal processes. Exhaust pipes and vents help them escape, but blocked or clogged spaces can cause fuel to accumulate in the combustion chamber without getting burned. 

Regular HVAC service and maintenance can help prevent soot puff backs. This can help identify common problems with heaters and furnaces and confirm everything functions properly. 

Is Soot Dangerous?

Is Soot Dangerous? 

As a type of particulate matter, soot is hazardous. You must properly treat soot-contaminated areas because they can cause lasting damage to property and adverse health conditions. Soot particles are invisible to the human eye and travel through the air, so they can enter your lungs and bloodstream

Soot is exceptionally destructive and corrosive. It can travel throughout your home and get into appliances, electronics and children’s toys. You can breathe in airborne particles, consume those that come in contact with food or absorb them through your skin. 

Soot inhalation can cause severe cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including: 

  • Irregular heartbeats. 
  • Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. 
  • Asthma. 
  • Lung disease and diminished lung function. 

Problems linked to soot exposure and inhalation put children, older people and people with preexisting heart and lung conditions at higher risk. Soot particles can also carry toxic chemicals, like arsenic, that increase the risk of diseases and multiple types of cancer. Ingestion or inhalation of soot particles and chemicals can lead to skin, lung, esophagus and bladder cancer.

How Is Soot Damage Cleaned? 

After identifying soot damage in your home, you must clean it properly and right away. You can locate soot by using a soot sponge. A proper restoration company, like Rhode Island Restoration, will need to clean away the soot by:

  • Placing air scrubbers with HEPA filters in the affected area and connecting them to exterior ducts to purify the air.
  • Testing spaces for signs of unseen soot with chemical sponges. 
  • Cleaning the air with thermal fogging. Because it recreates the fire-related pressurization and heat properties, this method can effectively remove smoke odor. Porous materials will accept thermally activated deodorant droplets and absorb their smell as they did with the smoke, replicating the fire’s process and replacing smokey scents.
  • Cleansing the area with multiple cleaning products and deodorizers to sanitize hard surfaces and items.
  • Establishing proper containment.
  • Partnering with CRDN when soot affects your electronics or clothing to make sure they are safe to use. If products are beyond cleaning efforts, we recommend discarding and replacing them.

We provide meticulous care when treating your property after a puff back to create a safe, healthy environment for you to return to. After we remove the soot, you will need to repaint everything because soot can cause discoloration. Since soot is so tiny, you can never fully remove it from some surfaces. Priming and painting will seal and lock in any missed particles.

How Do I Know if I Have a Soot Puff Back? 

Visible soot around HVAC returns and supply grills indicates you have a soot puff back. Another way to tell is soot cobwebs. Different from regular spider cobwebs, soot cobwebs typically form after an incident of soot damage, like a fire, and they have a distinct black color. 

What Do I Do After Soot Damage in RI?

What Do I Do After Soot Damage in RI? 

To ensure the safety of the people at your home or business, contact Rhode Island Restoration anytime. Call us at 401-414-1111 for emergency soot damage cleaning services in RI. We will assess all of the damages and make sure your home is safe to inhabit while preventing further damage.

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