What is a Puff Back?

For any homeowner with an oil-burning furnace, taking steps to avoid a puff back can save you from a lot of damage and clean up. But what is a puff back and how does it happen? The Franchise Professionals at SERVPRO® of Cape May & Cumberland Counties offer their insight on the causes and signs that a puff back may be brewing in your furnace.

Here’s what to know.

What is it?

Simply put, a puff back is an explosion of soot and debris that occurs when an oil-burning furnace fails to ignite. According to Franchise Professionals, when there are problems with the furnace, oil can pool in the ignition chamber. When it goes unburned, it can cause a burst when the igniter eventually triggers. And when the explosion occurs, it rushes soot and debris through the furnace’s exhaust system. If your furnace is connected to a heating system, the puff back can travel through the ducts and enter every room that has an open vent.

How does it happen?

So, how does oil end up pooling in the ignition chamber of your furnace? This is typically caused by oil leaking out of the nozzle into the chamber through oil system leaks, bubbles in the oil line that push oil through the burner nozzle, or a faulty shutdown valve on the nozzle itself. Over time, oil collects in the combustion chamber and waits for just the right time to explode when the furnace is triggered.

What are the signs?

A puff back can have devastating effects on your home, business, or heating system. However, there are warning signs that signal a potential problem with the furnace. Check the surrounding area for soot on the walls or ceiling. This could indicate that the oil is leaking out and not burning properly. When sounds made while the furnace is running continue after it has stopped or a bang sounds off at the start of a cycle, there could be unburned oil collecting in the chamber. 

How can you prevent it?

So, now you know about puff backs—but how can you prevent them from happening? Prevention has everything to do with how well you maintain your furnace. Regular maintenance is vital to its lifespan. SERVPRO® suggests having your furnace serviced and cleaned at least once per year. But it’s up to you to keep an eye on any irregularities or warning signs a puff back may be imminent.

Has your home or business been affected by a puff back? The Franchise Professionals at SERVPRO® of Cape May & Cumberland Counties work around-the-clock to provide 24-hour emergency service. Call 609-624-0202 to speak to a representative today.

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