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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

What is a Puffback?

12/26/2020 (Permalink)

Furnace after puffback Furnace after puffback

Do you stay up at night worried about Puffbacks?  Yeah, I didn’t think so but this quick read could save you a big headache.  Many people don’t even know what a puffback is but they are fairly common.

A puffback is an explosion of unburned fuel vapors inside your furnace, boiler, or hot water heater.  The explosion does not pose a serious safety issue but can cause a huge mess of soot and ash that gets blown into your property.  Puffbacks can happen in both natural gas and oil fueled furnaces but are more common in oil furnaces due to the need for more routine maintenance.

Fortunately regular maintenance can help prevent a puffback:

  1. Don’t keep pressing the reset if your furnace is not working properly or staying lit. Schedule a service call with your HVAC contractor. 
  2. Have your heating system serviced annually including a check for clogged burners.
  3. Look for visible oil leaks/dripping around the oil supply piping.
  4. Make sure the flue vent is securely connected. Small puffbacks over time loosen this connection.
  5. Check the exhaust flue and chimney for obstructions.
  6. Dirty ignition electrodes don’t generate enough of a spark to burn all of the fuel causing excess fuel to puddle in the combustion chamber causing corrosion.

Should you experience a puffback, the SERVPRO team has the tools and training needed to restore your property.  Specialized tools for this job include proprietary chemicals to remove soot, eliminate odors, and prevent stains.  Our technicians are highly trained in property damage restoration. From initial and ongoing training at SERVPRO’s Corporate Training Facility to regular IICRC industry certifications, rest assured our staff is equipped with the knowledge to restore your property. Our training program includes the following:

IICRC Training

Employee Certification Training

Initial Franchise Training


Continuing Education Classes

Call SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry at 201-330-4193

Fun fact: I am a volunteer firefighter and while writing this blog I received an alarm for a smoke condition in a local bank.  After our investigation the likely cause was determined to be a puffback in the natural gas heating system.  The bank’s HVAC contractor is enroute for a service call.

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