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What Is A Puff Back? A Guide on Puff Backs 2024


As the weather changes and the temperature drops, it is time for homeowners to start using their boiler or the furnace. While safe to use, there are circumstances that may cause the boiler or furnace to malfunction. That is when you can experience what is called “puff backs”.

When the heating system is poorly ventilated or clogged, you can experience what is called a “puff back” when starting up your furnace or boiler.


What Is A Puff Back?

A puff back occurs when you start your boiler or furnace without proper ignition. When that happens, oil or gas vapors build up until your boiler finally ignites causing what is called a “puff back”. This incident can result in anything from a small amount of smoke to an actual minor explosion, depending on how much fuel has been accumulating in the ignition chamber.

A puff back can be extremely dangerous to the structure of your home and to your health. When this kind of backfire happens, the soot and smoke in the heating exhaust system are forced out into your property.

Puffback occurs in both oil and gas furnaces, boilers, and water heaters. However, as oil does not dissipate as fast as gas, oil-fired furnaces and boilers are more prone to puff backs. 

What Causes A Puff Back?

A generic cause affecting all types of boilers and furnaces is the lack of maintenance or outdated equipment. More specifically, puff backs can occur due to these reasons:

Oil supply piping leak

  • Poor Chimney or Heater Installation
  • Heater Shutdown Problems
  • Oil Spray Nozzle issues (damaged or clogged)
  • Combustion Gas Venting issues

What Are The Consequences of A Puff Back?

When a backfire occurs, the furnace or boiler releases a large amount of back or gray soot as well as an oily odor. If your home features a forced-air system, the smoke and soot can easily spread in your entire home, even with the doors closed.

The soot and smoke can cover furniture, carpets, walls, ceilings, and all your belonging in a thin film. The soot coming from an oil-burning furnace or boiler is mixed with oil, making it very difficult to clean. 

Your belongings are not the only items affected. A puff back can cause damage to the heater components, causing a great financial loss.

How To Handle A Boiler or Furnace Puffback

A boiler or furnace backfire can be extremely dangerous. It is not advised to handle the aftermath on your own, as the soot and smoke can cause serious respiratory problems. Even if you clean the surfaces, the volatile organic compounds can remain undetected as they are invisible to the naked eye.

A licensed restoration team has the knowledge and experience to completely remove the soot, smoke, and odor from your home using professional puffback cleanup substances and tools.

Fire Damage Restoration in NY

iFlooded Restoration team has 30 years of experience in the restoration industry. Our team has handled numerous boiler fire projects and is prepared to handle your damage. We use professional equipment to clean all the surfaces, purify the air, and assist you in rebuilding your home.

In case you have experienced a boiler or furnace fire, our Emergency Team is available 24/7 to begin the fire damage restoration process immediately. If this is a covered damaged, we bill your insurance company directly so you can focus solely on getting your life back to normal

Call us now for a free estimate and let the professionals handle your situation!