Furnace puff-back (or not?)
We just went through an annoying homeowners claim over a puff-back from our furnace. There was a light layer of soot/smoke on EVERYTHING.
We just got the last room of our house repainted after ServePro came in and cleaned. We spent a few hundred bucks having Perfection Heating/HVAC from Newton come clean the furnace.
As a nightmare to us WE ARE STILL SEEING NEW SOOT/SMOKE on our walls, windows, mirrors, etc. Maybe it's not smoke/soot, maybe it's something else, IDK.
Does anyone have any ideas of where this stuff may be coming from, or who else to call that can find the problem? Possibly testing the actual stuff on the walls? We already had the furnace guy back, and he promises the furnace is tuned up and running properly, with no new signs of smoke/soot puff-back damage anywhere near it.
My father-in-law says it may be from a neighbor burning something weird in their fireplace? Or possibly because we live right next to Region Oils filling station on 46?
Any ideas/help would be appreciated.
When they came out and serviced your furnace did they check for any blockage in the chimney? We had our chimney sleeved and where they connected the tee to the sleeve it wasnt sealed right. This caused vermiculite to seep down and block the flue. We had soot all over the place (even when blowing our nose soot came out). I would double check that. I would think if it was a neighbor burning something you would see some on the outside of your house. Good luck.
It seems like soot from your furnace, have you had the flue looked at? flue could need cleaning. I highly doubt your walls would be covered from a source outside the home, unless you leave all your windows open. seems your furnace is not burning correctly or an obstruction in the chimney.an obsructed flue would cause a restriction forcing the flame to burn incorrectly. I would definitely call another service company. You don't say whether you burn gas or oil? I would'nt play around with it being it can cause carbon monoxide in the home, get it looked at immediately.
I agree with bluelinr.
Carbon monoxide is nothing to play around with.
My husband and I were lucky to have an alarm and that we woke up from it when we had issues.
I'm assuming you've got forced hot air heating? And the furnace is gas fired with no chimney? I would definitely have the furnace exhaust checked, and if there's a vent pipe to the roof, I'd check to see if there's something blocking it or if the pipe has a break in it as it goes up through the house.
Sorry about that. We have an oil burning furnace and baseboard heat, not forced hot air. . .which makes it even weirder.
I never thought of the chimney. The furnace guy said the base of the exhaust/chimney was all clogged up, so he cleared that out, along with all of the pipes in the furnace. We have a fireplace upstairs, but i haven't used it since i bought the house 7 or 8 years ago. The firebox/liner is rusted out so it's not safe to use.
The furnace was new 5 years ago, and the furnace guy checked it again his second time out and said it was fine. Strangely there didn't seem to be any sign of the stuff we're seeing on our walls down by the furnace.
We actually have a mold guy coming out tomorrow morning. He's going to do a full mold test, along with an air quality test.
I'm curious about the chimney now though. . .maybe i should get a chimney guy out instead of another furnace guy?
Or are there any that do chimney's AND furnaces?
Jive Dig,,,,if your furnace chimney and your fireplace chimney are next to each other the soot will come down the old fireplace flue if not closed,,just a thought
Don't waste your money on the mold person. They are prob going to sell you something you don't need. I have the same problem. Its coming from the chimney. I only recently noticed it because the winds have been bad and forcing the air back down my chimney. I'm going to have the chimney cleaned when the weather get nicer. I'm going to hire a Flue Tech Inc. I think they are based out of Long Valley. I put a link to their website below.
Firefox in Augusta did my chimney work. When i had an issue Jim the owner came out and promptly corrected it. I think i would try diagnosing yourself. Shut off the funace and remove the pipe that goes to your flue. Get out a flashlight and maybe a mirror and see if there are any blockages. If you are comfortable with going on your roof bring your flashlight up and look down the chimney. I am really confident thats your issue. I had the same system and issues as you.
Any evidence of black soot outside, on or in the car?
Might you have had 2 back-to-back puff-backs?
I have heard of this happening. A family I know had the whole house cleaned after a puff-back, fixed the furnace (so they thought), and a week later - another puff-back.
In any case - you have my sympathy, this must be truly awful!
There is a good chance that the first company did not do a thorough cleaning after the puffback; And therefore you may see a waxy soot afterwards. Cleaning an oil boiler is a messy job and after a puffback even more messy. Did they replace the filters, etc. This is why I do not like oil heat, it is much more maintenance than natural gas. I would recommend calling a second company in to check the boiler.
I agree with IJay2. It is very tough to clean that mess. I had this happen a few times and had superb results with these cleaning sponges. I highly recommend getting some.
It's impossible for the soot to be still on the walls from the first puffback when every wall, ceiling, baseboard, door, trim has been repainted. And we've been checking the windows/mirrors/etc and everything was fine after the paint.
Luna Chimney came out and cleaned the chimney. It wasn't clogged, and it wasn't that dirty. Another $200 wasted on this.
(Of course they recommended a $3000 chimney liner anyway - "just 'incase")
The chimney guy did notice that the little draft flap thing on the furnace wasn't opening as much as it should when the furnace was running.
We're going to get a second opinion on the furnace, and get a draft test as well.
(If anyone says Scotty and Son i'll know to never trust your recommendations again.)
Forgot to mention,
We cleaned the outside of a few different windows. . . the same windows that have the soot on the inside. . . and the outsides were a little dirty, but free of the black soot that we see on the inner sides.
When I moved into my house the walls were full of black soot. The previous owner apparently had a chimney fire. At the time I had a friend at a paint company explain that if the walls weren't properly cleaned that the soot will actually bleed thru the new paint job. He told me that it would be hard to get the soot off. After a lot of scrubbing and 2 coats of a good primer we were able to paint. Did you paint yourself or did you have it done professionally? If professionally, I would go back to the painter and say something to them because if the walls weren't clean they should have caught that.
You're missing it.
ServePro came in and professionally cleaned everything.
A professional painter came in and primed and painted everything.
We clean the windows ourselves, even after ServePro cleaned.
After cleaning the windows, we clean again, to make sure nothing comes off.
Within a couple days, if we clean the windows again, there is a light layer of black soot coming off the window.
Maybe you can call some energy audit company to do a blower door test to see whether the house itself and duct are air-tight.
The soot/smoke is must due to some kind of air movement or circulation.
Something inside your door (furnace?) is generating such black smoke, and the air leak caused it to move all around you house.
Just my guess.
You said the damper is not opening correctly? I would look at that, improper operation will cause a restriction.when your furnace is running have you looked outside to see if you have any smoke? the ignitor on the oil gun tip may be incorrectly set. did the service man look at the burner assembly? If you are getting soot inside the house from your furnace the first indication would be black smoke or haze gray smoke coming out of the chimney. your chimney was cleaned so it would have to be the be the damper or burner assembly. have the gap on the ignitor checked.
Jive Dig -
Not the cheapest out there, but once and done, so you aren't wasting more money.
No dark smoke coming out of the chimney. We were in the roof looking in and could see the exhaust coming out but it was clean. The chimney guy said he could tell the furnace was running efficiently by the exhaust. It's definitely flowing out of the chimney, but there could still be a leak somewhere.
I'll look into Air Group and post back. Thanks everyone :)
Quite the mystery.
Metal furnace flues often direct smoke to masonry chimneys. Sulfur residues also can cause cracks in metal venting flues, resulting in soot leaking into your home. Water moisture condensing on the inside of masonry chimneys can cause joints to erode and crack. Soot can leak into your home from these cracks.
I would also change heating oil companies on the next delivery, in case your heating oil is bad.
Or maybe you need TAPS:
@iJay3- Not sure what a heat exchanger is?
@maja- Luna Chimney came to try to sell me a new metal chimney liner (for $3000 of course) and said that it may or may not solve the issue. He also said they could come back with a camera (for $200+) and take a look at the inside of the chimney to see if there are any cracks or caved in areas that smoke could be coming in from.
The camera is an option, but i'm not convinced that it's not coming directly from the furnace. . .
Air Group will be here today ($129 just to come out). They better be thorough and let me know if it is the furnace or not.
Air Group only works on Natural Gas furnaces, NOT oil.
Luckily the sales lady forgot to ask so she could waste my time as well as the technicians.
I need someone that can test the draft of the furnace for now, to make sure it's properly flowing out of the exhaust pipe into the chimney.
Heat exchanger is basically the furnace, flame should heat from the inside of the furnace and transfer the heat through to heat the air. A cracked heat exchanger would probably give the appearance of an erratic flame, the tech probably would have noticed that. Do you have a carbon monoxide detector near? sounds like it could definitely be the flue piping or liner.
We found it!
A friend from church came over and we talked about lots of different things it could be. He looked in and around the furnace and agreed it was clean and running well. Upon more inspection we noticed that behind the plastic I had hanging on the wall (we're in the process of finishing our basement) the place where the metal furnace exhaust pipe went in to the block of the wall wan't sealed anymore. The concrete was crumbling around the pipe. You can see from the pic I attached.
The soot was coming back out the gap around the pipe and running up the plastic on the wall right into the joists above, from there it was seeping through the floor into our house. This explains why there wasn't much soot in the basement, and why it was mostly upstairs.
Moral of the story:
1: Don't use Perfection Heating/HVAC
He had that whole pipe out of the wall to clean and never once said it wasn't sealed properly and that it needed to be.
2: Don't use Luna Chimney.
That guy had the pipe out as well to clean the chimney. Instead of telling me the fix was sealing the pipe, he tried to sell me a $3000-$4000 chimney liner.
Maybe one day i'll find an honest company that will service my chimney.
Scotty & Son, Perfection Heating/HVAC, Luna Chimney will never get my business again.
Thank God we can breathe free in our house again!
Thanks to all the H'Town Lifers for offering your thoughts and help.
Glad you have it figured out Jive Dig. Maybe the moral of the story is go to church and make friends who'll check out your house because they like you, not because they'll make money :)
The picture of the flue pipe tells the whole story.
Definetely a No No..and you should get your money back from any one that claimed to be a professional to work on your system.
The oil burner has a combustion air fan that supplies a pressure to support the combustion but in all instances...the flue outlet connected to the chimney MUST be sealed.
When the chimney is cold...there is a less draw from the chimney until it warms up a bit.
If your chimney is on the outside of the house...you should have a liner installed in that chimney. It's the law.
If you use the oil fired boiler for hot water making...do yourself another favor. Install a Car Mon alarm near the burning device. Also one upstairs in the hallway adjacent to the bedrooms. Be Safe! Stay Alive!
Out of curiosity, what did Scotty and Son do? I see reasons why on the other businesses but not Scotty. I'm just wondering because I have used him for years without any issues. He's actually gone above and beyond on many occasions.
The picture isn't actually what it looked like, though it WAS the answer. There was concrete there, it was just cracking and not sealed properly. I took the picture after we cleaned out all the crumbling stuff.
Scotty & Son came to my house to clean my old furnace. I was working, so i didn't watch him/them do any of the work. I paid him, and he left. I wasn't living at the house at the time, as we were refinishing the wood floors in every room of the house. When i went back to the house the next day, my entire basement was covered with a few inches of water.
Apparently the furnace had blown up, or cracked, or whatever. . . and drained all the water out.
When i called Scotty & Son to say 'WTF happened?', the FIRST THING OUT OF HIS MOUTH was "Well, I actually have a brand new furnace the exact same model as yours in stock right now. It's normally $5000 but i'll install it for $4000 for you."
That's a little shady to me, no?
On top of that, when i had someone else install a new furnace for me a week later. . . he opened up the old one and it was completely dirty and nasty inside. He said there was NO WAY it had been cleaned a week earlier. I saw it for myself too. A thick layer of soot on the inside.
Maybe i'm jumping to conclusions, but Scotty & Son's claims to have cleaned my furnace, but didn't. That night my furnace 'coincidentally' explodes and Scotty & Son 'coincidentally' has a brand new one ready to install at a fake "discount" cost to me.
Its hard to believe that would cause all the soot throughout the house when there doesnt seem to be residue where the pipe enters chimney... I guess time will tell.
Jive Dig- I'm Bill Green, the owner of Scotty and Son Heating. I want to start by first saying that I apologize that you feel that you received poor, shady work from me and my company. I have read through your messages above. I wish you had called me as soon as this happened. I would have been there right away to check out the issue. Based on your message above that says you live right next to Budd Oil's filling station and clicking on your name above brings me to your website for the recording studio. I remember the location and service call. This was about 7 or 8 years ago. I was called because of no heat. I repaired the burner. I did not clean the boiler as that was not what was requested. When I left, the boiler was working properly. I was called back the next day. Upon arrival I saw that someone had drained the boiler. There was a hose in the bottom of the boiler and the boiler was empty but the switch was left on which caused the boiler to be very hot and that could result in a crack since there was no water in it. I then added water to the boiler, checked for leakage of which there did not appear to be any at that time. I remember this call because someone would not normally drain out their own boiler and the fact that it was, concerned me. I can even remember that it was a Weil McLlain boiler. My business reputation is very important to me. I have been running the business for more than 23 years. I do not keep any boilers in stock. I order them from supply houses when the customer and I agree on a job. I am always aware of people's financial circumstances and always try to fix the furnaces and boilers instead of the customer incurring a costly and most times not needed expense. If the furnace/boiler is only a few years old I will most times absorb the expense and replace what is needed at no cost to the customer if I was the company to install it. I have always and will always stand by my work. I would rather not go back and forth on the forum but would love the chance to talk to you about the service you feel you received. If you would like, please call me at 908 850-3070. Thank you.
I have had Scotty and Son repair my A/C unit and they did a great job. He knew immediately what the problem was and correctly repaired it. I wouldn't hesitate to call him again, (although I hope I don't have to) and I recommend him highly.
I can attest that Scotty and Son are one of the best out there. I have called Bill for a number of different things since I bought my house two years ago and he couldn;t have been better or more accomodating. Do a search on these threads and you'll find tons of people who say he's the best.
I had a great experience with Bill from Scotty and Son. Our AC is on the verge of going and last summer during a power serge I thought it finally did. I called someone that was recommended from this site and after giving me a time, never showed up and didn't call. I called a friend and she said, I use this guy, he's always been good and fair to us, try him. So, at 8:30 that night I called and told Bill my problem. During my conversation he heard my daughter ask me for another ice pop. He said, "I heard your daughter, you don't live far from me, I'll be there tonight." In 25 mins he was at my door, flashlight in hand. He rooted thru my bushes, flipped a switch that we didn't know needed a certain ammount of time to recharge and got it going. After all that, he said, no charge, I flipped a switch. I will continue to use and recommend him.
We can talk further on the phone if you wish, but not much can get fixed now.
The heat was working fine. I called for a cleaning, that's it.
The water couldn't have been drained unless someone broke in the house. It was locked and we weren't living here during that stretch of the floors getting done. We kept the heat in the low 60's and it was working every day.
I also did call the next day, to ask what the deal was. Whoever i talked to seemed to shrug their shoulders about it and offer me a brand new furnace, regardless of in-stock or ordered, it shouldn't have went down that way.
Hello Jiv Dig,
I just read through the emails and am interested to know if the issue you identified several months ago as the problem was, in fact, the problem and is still resolved (meaning you don't have soot on the walls, etc). I'm very interested because I am experiencing the same soot problem you described. I've had the system checked out multiple times, cleaned, checked and told it is working well. The system is oil fired furnace, baseboard radiators, and a power vent that I had replaced a few months ago after being told that the old one was the culprit...but it is not resolved since there is soot again. And this after spending nearly 5 G's to have the living quarters (bedrooms, family room, etc).
Frustrated in Naugatuck, CT
Fact of the matter is that it helped a TON. We had no more soot for the rest of the year. Now as we headed into the cold weather again, it's back. Very frustrating. We're finding it upstairs again, mostly in the room right above the furnace.
My new plan is to completely seal off the furnace in the basement. It's already framed out. I'm going to sheetrock all the walls and the ceiling. Then (after I research/decide) I'm going to have 2 vents leading outside. One will be an exhaust (for the room not the actual furnace exhaust - that will still be in the chimney) and the other will be intake. The intake may or may not hook directly up to the furnace so there is no big openings of the furnace into the room.
I've talked to a few people about this option, and so far it seems like the most fullproof. Regardless of where the soot is coming from, there will never be a chance for it to get upstairs.
The only way this wouldn't work for me (and possibly you) is if the soot is actually getting there from a crack in the chimney. We had a look in our chimney from the bottom and the top and overall it looked in decent shape.
Feeling your pain,
Don't know if its the same, but a few years ago we switched from oil to gas, part of the deal was a chimney liner, the cost for the whole thing was just under $5,000. Liner , furnace, water heater, piping etc. Don't see how liner quote you got is realistic, I would try other companies for quotes. Try TGM
It's looking like getting a liner may fix our issue. The mortar between the terracotta tiles currently lining the chimney is somewhat deteriorated.
Being a web designer as well, I'm talking to a few companies now about bartering. ( http://jivedigdesign.com). That will lighten the cost a bit.
My chimney is about 19', and the stainless steel liner will probably end up being 5.5". I think i'm looking about $2,000 give or take a few hundo. That's certainly not in our budget right now, so a trade-off would be optimal. Naturally, a nice site with proper SEO will get them some more business in the immediate future ;)
A freind of mine had alot of issues like this-turn out it was a radon vent fan that was screwing up the draft on the furnace,if you have one shut it off and see if that helps.
A freind of mine had alot of issues like this-turns out it was a radon vent fan that was screwing up the draft on the furnace,if you have one shut it off and see if that helps.
$2000.00 still looks way high, did you get that from a reputable source? Again, try TGM for a quote
@eapos - Who's TGM again? I called a bunch of places, but it won't hurt to try a few more.
@mistergoogle - No humidifier in the system. I run one in the basement sometimes, but it's a standalone.
I'm glad the warmer weather is here so i can open my windows/doors and run the attic fan. The soot is getting bad. My kids had sinus infections multiple times this winter. .. i can't help but wonder if it has to do with all this crap.
Hey Jive Dig,
Years ago my parents had the same exact thing happen to them. They had that soot come from the furnace, so they had the furnace serviced, but then had to have a company come in and clean the house. They had a certain solution they used , otherwise it just keeps coming back.They wipe down EVERYTHING. It took them a few days. It's not the furnace company,but another company specializing in cleaning.Yellow pages.
One good thing. I believe their Home Owners Insurance took care of it.
I hope this helps....
scottys and son did my sisters furnace replacement. I was going to do it for her myself but it is forced hot air and needed more returns added and Im not a metal knocker so it would be a pain for me. His price was very very fair and the work he done was great. my sister was tite on money at the time and didnt want to do returns but scottys did the extra returns at the furnace install price. I cant say enough good things about this guy and the young guy who helped him. also he was very nice and up front with her. He didnt turn job into rocket science, which I always feel repairmen do to make it seem like they can over charge you if they convince you they are doing a miricale for you. Really nice down to earth normal furnace guy IMO.
Why would you get so much soot from the flue pipe not being sealed tite you see this all the time in homes. And you have a damper on the flue so the soot would come out there any how. also the furnace isnt air tite it has to be open to allow for a draft. You shouldnt have so much back draft that its blowing soot out of every little or big crack. Do you have a odd negative air prs thing going on in the basement like a window fan blowing out or over sized radon fan with a open sump pump pit. Negative air prs in a building makes for a very drafty cold living space all gasses are constantly trying to equalize so its gonna always be trying to suck cold air in every window or door ect.
Honestly, I don't know how it happened being it was so many years ago. I just remember that soot or a substance there of got all over everything, and we were told it would keep coming back if we tried to clean it. Sooo. my Dad hired a cleaning company who came in and wiped down everything .
They used some sort of solution of what I don't know.
But I remember his Home Owner's insurance covered it.
Anyway, good luck to you....
so there is this company that i might be able to get to help me, they are edmonton furnace cleaning, and they are near me, can they help me if i have this problem? thanks
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