The electrodes must be frequently checked and adjusted to ensure proper and efficient ignition of the fuel oil. Broken or malfunctioning electrodes can result in smoke leaking out into the rooms of the structure. This problem, called a puffback, is not an uncommon one in oil-fired appliances (see sidebar).
A puffback, or the leaking of sooty smoke from the combustion chamber of an oil furnace or boiler, is caused by the accumulation of fuel oil in the combustion chamber of the furnace or boiler after an ignition failure. When the oil burner is successfully restarted, the accumulated fuel oil burns too rapidly for the exhaust system to carry away the smoke. The excess smoke is forced out into the rooms through the seams in the furnace or boiler combustion chamber walls. Damaged electrodes are not the only cause of puffback. Other causes include the following:
• Ignition transformer failure
• Contaminated or eroded oil burner nozzle
• Fuel pump malfunction
• Clogged oil filter
• Clogged burner air intake
• Damaged combustion chamber linings