Puffbacks, the release of smoke and soot that occur when a furnace or boiler misfires, are a common insurance claim over the cold weather season. Messy and occasionally dangerous, this improper ignition resulting from oil or gas buildup can create anything from a small puff a smoke, to a minor explosion. This damage is unfortunately not covered by the typical homeowner’s policy, however puffbacks are easily preventable with proper service and maintenance.
Common Puffback Causes that Put Your Home & Family At-Risk
- Combustion leaks
These allow fuel to buildup, resulting in puffbacks on ignition.
- Exhaust/chimney clogs
Dirt, dust, fuel residue, rust, corrosion, and pest and animal obstructions that prevent the proper venting of your home heating system can easily result in pressure irregularities that lead to air/fuel imbalances and puffback.
- Cracked heat exchanger
The dynamics of this issue, similar to clogs, cause internal pressure irregularities that can lead to a flame rolling out of your furnace from excess fuel.
- Damaged oil fuel nozzle
Clogs or cracks in this nozzle spraying fuel unevenly or insufficiently create a situation where excess oil builds up in the burner over time, eventually igniting to result in a puffback.
- Clogged burner
Dust, dirt, rust, corrosion and fuel residue can cause a misfire, creating excess fuel buildup in the combustion chamber and eventually leading to puffback when fuel eventually ignites.
- Frequent manual resets
Leading to an overabundance of fuel in the chamber and subsequent puffback.
How Can You Prevent Puffbacks?
Regular, professional HVAC inspection and maintenance can help you detect puffback problems before they occur….
- Identifying fuel leaks in/around the combustion chamber or in the lines that could lead to puffbacks.
- Checking and clearing dirt, buildup, and obstructions in the venting/flue that can adversely affect the fuel-to-air ratio of your furnace or boiler and prevent it from venting dangerous carbon monoxide gases.
- Performing a ‘candle check,’ using a lit flame near the heat exchanger while the blower is operating, to identify/verify the presence of cracks in the heat exchanger that can result in puffbacks and potentially deadly carbon monoxide leaks.
- Check the oil nozzle and burner assembly for damage that can lead to puffback.
Not a DIY Endeavor
Though well-intentioned, furnace and boiler inspections are not a DIY job. Always get a trained HVAC professional to inspect and tune-up your gas or oil heater or boiler. Make sure your chosen professional is licensed and insured, as the safety of your home – and more importantly your family – rests in the hands of these technicians. Look to HVAC company reviews when choosing one who to hire for this essential service. The best HVAC companies will provide a tune-up that includes essential parts such as the burner assembly, nozzle, oil filter and fuel pump strainer, as well as a thorough safety test for odorless, colorless carbon monoxide.
Fight back against puffbacks and ensure the safety of your family. Schedule your annual maintenance and safety inspection with H & H Heating & Air Conditioning today.