The best ways to avoid an ugly and dangerous oil burner puffback are:
- Have all of your oil fired heating appliances serviced regularly, normally once a year. Encourage the service technician to do more than a superficial cleaning (oil filter and nozzle change) – pay extra if necessary to have the equipment opened, cleaned, and inspected thoroughly.
- The best time to have oil fired equipment cleaned is in the spring at the end of the heating season. You will get a better cleaning job if you schedule this work in the spring when the oil company is less swamped with service calls and the technician may be allowed more time to do a proper job.
- Stay alert for odors, noises, soot in the boiler / furnace room or elsewhere in the building, or rumbling at the oil burner, and call your heating service company for inspection, diagnosis, and repair if needed.
- Watch for oil leaks or air leaks anywhere on the oil piping system or at the oil burner – since oil leaks are also air leaks in many cases. Signs of air leaks in (or oil leaks out) of the oil piping system include:
- Visible drips of oil at oil piping fittings and connections.
- Accumulated dirt and crud at oil piping fittings and connections anywhere in the system (this is why meticulous cleaning of everything is a sign of good oil burner service by your heating technician – it makes it easy to watch for leaks.
- Oil burner rumbles and burbles on at shut down – the burner does not stop sharply and quickly
- Noisy operation of the fuel unit (heating oil pump) may be due to air in the lines (or other causes like a bad coupling)
- If the problem is a dirty oil shutoff valve (check valve) inside the oil burner’s fuel unit, an easy “fix” is to install an oil-delay valve (quick stop valve) on the oil burner – this extra valve is designed to shut off cleanly the moment oil pressure begins to drop at the end of an oil burner run cycle.
- Debris visible in the flue vent connector (stack pipe) visible through the barometric damper draft control opening. If you see soot, rust flakes, and debris in the flue vent connector this means that the heating system needs to be cleaned and serviced.
Lack of regular inspection and service of oil fired heating equipment risks loss of heat and related building damage, or sometimes, a messy and dangerous puffback.