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Different Types of Puff Backs Explained

what is a puff back

A puff back is a blast of smoke, soot, and ash from a furnace that experiences a misfire or internal explosion. Puff backs send soot everywhere, damaging walls, ceilings, and other surfaces and even entering ventilation systems.

Puff backs can also describe any scenario where dust and soot are blown violently everywhere.

For example, our technicians at ServiceMaster Fire & Water Clean Up responded to a case in York, PA where a man tried to vacuum his fireplace. But he had the device set to ‘blow’ and sent soot flying all over the room!

Here are some more types of puff backs that can occur and cause damage from soot:

Oil Furnace Puff Backoil furnace puff back

An oil furnace or a boiler fueled by oil is the most common device that experiences puff backs.

This problem occurs when unburned oil at the bottom of the furnace is heated. Unburned oil accumulates due to improper ignition timing, leaving a residue of oil that failed to combust after each ignition cycle.

As oil fumes and gasses build up at the bottom of the furnace, pressure is raised around the unburned oil. Eventually, when the pressure is high enough, the next ignition cycle will trigger an explosion and backfire of soot.

Coal Stove Puff Back

Coal stoves are certainly less common these days, but many households still use them for their efficiency.

Coal stoves can suffer from puff backs when gasses are allowed to build up within. This typically occurs when the coal stove becomes ash bound, which doesn’t allow flames to get going on the coals properly.

Never close the door on a coal stove until you confirm the blue flames are dancing on the coals. Otherwise you might face a nasty puff back cleanup scenario!

Fireplace Puff Back

Similar to other puff backs, ones that occur in the fireplace are a result of built-up gasses and pressure.

Any obstruction in the chimney that prevents smoke from exiting up the flue can lead to a puff back. These obstructions can be nests from birds and bees, to tree branches, or even just cold and wet weather weighing the air in the chimney down.

Always properly prep your fireplace before igniting to prevent puff back situations.

Contact a Professional for Puff Back Cleanup

If you experience a puff back from your furnace, stove, or fireplace, you’ll have a huge mess of soot, dust, and ash on your hands.

Soot can be difficult to get out of drywall, ceilings, and other surfaces. But if it’s left to sit, it can cause extensive damage.

ServiceMaster Fire & Water Clean Up provides soot cleanup in the Lancaster, PA, York, PA, and Harrisburg, PA areas.

Our technicians will arrive quickly to clean up soot, coal dust, and other debris after a puff back event.

We are available 24/7 at (844) 805-1107 to respond to puff back emergencies!