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How Does an Electronic Ignition Differ From a Pilot Light in Gas Furnaces?

small_5622931722In the recent decades, many new technologies have made it possible for furnaces to operate more efficiently than ever. One of those technologies is the electronic ignition, which replaces the standard pilot light that homeowners have been familiar with for many years. Because electronic ignitions are becoming so common in St. Louis area homes, we want to help familiarize homeowners with them and the role they play in the heating process. So today we’re going to talk about what an electronic ignition furnace is, how it works and what you should know if you have one in your furnace!

 

The problem with conventional pilot lights

 

Up until recent history, pilot lights were used in nearly every furnace to ignite the burners when a heating cycle begins. A pilot light is a small flame that burns continuously inside of your furnace whether it is running or not. When your burners are ready to ignite, the main gas supply to your furnace is turned on and the pilot light is used to spark the flames in the burners. You might be familiar with pilot lights because they can occasionally blow out and need to be relit.

 

The problem with pilot lights is that they require a small but steady amount of fuel to be consumed in order to keep the flame burning at all times. Even if your furnace is not in a heating cycle, a small amount of gas is used for the pilot light. Over time, this adds up to a lot of wasted fuel.

 

An electronic ignition makes furnaces more efficient

 

An electronic ignition is a device that replaces conventional pilot lights in almost all newly-manufactured furnaces. There are two types of electronic ignitions: a hot surface ignition and an intermittent pilot. Let’s take a look at both and how each of them improves furnace efficiency levels.

 

A hot surface ignition is the most common type of electronic ignition. It is a small metal device that uses an electrical current to heat up to a high enough temperature to ignite the furnace’s burners. The electronic ignition is only turned on when the furnace is ready to begin a heating cycle, and it eliminates the need for a constant fuel supply that a conventional pilot light requires.

 

Like a conventional pilot light, an intermittent pilot light still uses a small, gas-powered flame to ignite the furnace’s burners. However, an intermittent pilot light is started by an electronic spark and only burns when a heating cycle is ready to begin. Although some fuel is still used by the pilot light, it is a very small amount because it’s only used when the pilot light needs to be lit and the fuel supply is shut off as soon as the burners ignite.

 

What should you know if you have an electronic ignition furnace?

 

Electronic ignitions are great because of the amount of fuel that they save, but like any furnace component, they can still develop problems. For example, the metal ignition can crack over time due to the wear-and-tear brought on by years of expanding and contracting. In addition, the ignition can be rendered useless if your furnace loses power. The best way to avoid problems with your electronic ignition is to schedule annual tune-ups with Jerry Kelly for your furnace. As part of your tune-up, we’ll inspect your electronic ignition and repair or replace it as necessary if we encounter any problems.

 

If you have any questions about an electronic ignition furnace, or if you’d like a heating system serviced or installed in your home, contact Jerry Kelly, your St. Louis furnace installation and repair contractor. We provide service all over the St. Louis area, including towns like Clayton, Cottleville and Creve Coeur, MO.

 

photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc