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Furnace Puff Backs: What Are They and What Should I Do?

With winter fast approaching, the weather will only get colder. To help protect yourself from the cold, you’ll be turning on the heat in your home, ensuring you can stay warm and cozy inside. Most likely, this will be the first time in several months that you’re putting your furnace to use. If you haven’t had it inspected or maintained by a professional, then you may not be aware of any problems it has until you need it most.

One of the most common problems you can encounter with a furnace is a furnace puff back.

When a furnace puff back occurs, soot and/or smoke make their way into your home, causing damage to your belongings. These puff backs can happen in gas and oil furnaces. However, they are more common with oil furnaces. But regardless of what kind of furnace you have, you need to be aware of puff backs and the soot and smoke damage they can cause.

Continue reading to learn what a furnace puff back is, what you should do if a furnace puff back occurs, and how they happen.

What is a Furnace Puff Back, and What Damage Does It Cause?

A furnace puff back is a puff of soot and smoke that is sent out from a furnace into your residential or commercial business. Depending on the type of furnace, the cause of the puff back, and the amount of smoke and soot that has been shot out into the property, the puff back can cause minimal harm or significant smoke and soot damage to both your heating system and property.

If you have a forced-air heating system, then it’s likely the damage will be severe. This is because the ductwork is set up in a way that lets soot easily travel throughout the entirety of your property.

Regardless of system type, smoke and soot are corrosive byproducts that can cause permanent damage if not cleaned properly in a timely manner. Smoke damage includes discolored/stained walls and materials, and soot damage includes etching and tarnishing to surfaces. This damage will only worsen with time, too, as their particles settle further into the materials.

What Causes Furnace Puff Backs?

A furnace puff back occurs when the furnace has an ignition problem. It cannot properly ignite, which lets oil and gas build up inside the combustion chamber. Upon ignition, the gas buildup forces out smoke and soot, resulting in a puff back.

The amount of corrosive byproducts sent out depends on how much gas accumulated. As such, if only a small amount of gas built up in the chamber, then the puff back will be smaller and less problematic. But if a lot of gas accumulated, it can force out a great deal of smoke and soot into your home or business.

A furnace can accumulate the excessive gas needed for a furnace puff back in several ways. They are often due to general wear and tear and maintenance. Clogged burners, damaged oil fuel nozzles, clogged exhausts, broken heat exchangers, and ventilation issues can all cause gas to build up in the ignition chamber and eventually lead to a puff back.

You’re more likely to experience puff backs if you have an oil furnace. This is because oil furnaces require more maintenance work compared to gas furnaces and because oil doesn’t dissipate as well as gas.

What Should I Do About Furnace Puff Backs?

If a puff back occurs in your property, then you may have an issue with the heating system. Because of this, do not use the furnace. Turn off your heating system to minimize the damage done, and do not use it again until a professional allows it.

Depending on how severe the puff back was, you may need to evacuate your property. This can be the case if it involved a lot of smoke, if there’s fire risk, or if your carbon monoxide detector goes off. In the event that carbon monoxide is in your home or business, then you also need to call 911 for emergency assistance.

When it’s safe to return to your property, you need to document the damage if you want to have your insurance provider cover the restoration/repairs costs for the incident. Take photos of the furnace itself and the areas damaged by the puff back.

While you may be tempted to take a look at the furnace yourself or to clean up the smoke and soot damage, it’s in your best interest not to. In fact, if you try to clean the soot yourself, it’s likely that you’ll worsen the damage. Instead get in touch with a professional heating technician to look at your heating system and professional smoke damage restoration services.

For the soot and smoke damage, call ServiceMaster Restoration by Complete to clean up the mess. We provide professional soot puffback cleaning services to clean and restore smoke and soot damage on household surfaces and furnishings. Our professional technicians are equipped with the proper cleaning products and equipment to effectively clean the aftereffects of a furnace puff back and get your home back to its original condition.