What Are the Causes of Soot in an Oil Burner?

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Many home heating options are available for the consumer, from portable electrical room heaters to central heating systems. However, some homeowners are choosing oil heating systems as an economical and energy-efficient way to warm a home. Oil heating system components, such as the oil burner, must be periodically inspected and maintained to prevent soot accumulation.

Oil Heating System Functions

A storage tank holds the heating oil. An oil pump pressurises and moves the oil toward the burner enclosed in a protective housing with a boiler or furnace. The burner sprays fine particles of oil outward, mixing it with the surrounding air. A spark from the burner ignites the oil and air mixture, generating heat for the internal heat exchanger. The heat transfers through the oil heating system's ducts for warming the entire home. Fumes from the flame, such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide, escape through an attached chimney to the outside.

Dirty Oil Burner

A main cause for oil burner soot production is a dirty or clogged spray nozzle. The nozzle must have a clear end for releasing the oil in small droplets. Dirty or clogged nozzles allow oil drips to fall onto the floor of the burner's combustion chamber. Oil accumulates on the chamber's floor until the next oil burning sequence. The ignition flame for the burner accidentally ignites the oil remaining on the chamber's floor. The resulting combustion causes soot puffback within the oil burner's assembly, as well as movement of soot through the heating system's ducts.

Faulty Oil Burner

A faulty spring-loaded valve can also cause soot puffback. The valve controls the flow of oil to the spray nozzle. Oil will continue to flow, without igniting, if the valve does not sense the oil burner shutting down. A broken spring, or even dirt blocking the valve's movement, can cause limited shutdown abilities.

Soot Effects

Depending on the excess oil amount that ignited off of the combustion chamber's floor, soot can easily force itself through the heating system's ductwork and into living spaces. Heating system technicians will typically find the telltale signs of a soot puffback by looking at the home's interior walls and ceilings. Soot will line the home's interior until the oil burner is repaired.

Soot Analysis

Some contractors analyse the soot from a home if the cause is undetermined. Oil burners are a common culprit, but other components can exude soot, such as a cracked heat exchanger. Any soot found within the home requires a visit from a heating technician. The soot problem can become worse, costing a lot of money for repairing and cleaning.

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