363043233_49c8c50fc2_mFor many years, furnaces used a small and continuously burning flame known as a pilot light to ignite the burners during every heating cycle. Although pilot lights are still present in homes with older systems, most newly installed furnaces use an electronic ignition instead. Today we’re going to talk about the difference between conventional pilot lights and electronic ignitions and why there has been a shift toward electronic ignitions in new furnaces!

What’s the issue with conventional pilot lights?

A pilot light is a small flame that resides near your furnace’s burners that burns continuously throughout the day and night. When it comes time for a heating cycle, gas is delivered to the burners and the flame is used to ignite the gas.

There are a couple of issues with a conventional pilot light. First, the flame must be kept burning at all times. This means that your furnace is always consuming at least a little bit of gas. Although the amount of gas that a pilot light consumes is small, it can really add up over time.

Another big issue is that pilot lights can be blown out from time-to-time due to a nearby draft, dirt buildup, a malfunctioning thermocouple and more. When this happens, you have to relight the pilot light before your furnace can turn on properly again.

What is an electronic ignition in a furnace?

An electronic ignition stands in place of conventional pilot lights in newer furnaces. There are a couple of different kinds of electronic ignitions. The first kind is known as a hot surface ignition. This is a small electronic device that receives an electrical current whenever your home is ready for heat. The ignition heats up to a temperature that is hot enough to ignite the gas to your burners, and then it shuts off after it has done its job.

Another kind of electronic ignition is known as an intermittent pilot light. This type of electronic ignition uses a small flame to ignite the burners just like a conventional pilot light. The difference is that the flame is only lit (by an electronic spark) when your furnace is ready for a heating cycle. When the pilot light is not needed, it is completely off.

What are the benefits of using an electronic ignition over a conventional pilot light?

  • Saves gas. Unlike a conventional pilot light, electronic ignitions do not need to consume gas at all times. A hot surface ignition relies solely on electricity, while an intermittent pilot light only consumes gas when the pilot light is needed.
  • Doesn’t blow out. A hot surface ignition cannot blow out, and an intermittent pilot light is typically only running long enough to light the burners. Even if the pilot light did blow out, it would be able to turn back on without you needing to relight it.
  • Prevents safety issues. Conventional pilot lights can develop problems that cause them to burn inefficiently. When this happens, a small amount of carbon monoxide can be released into your home’s air. This is not an issue with electronic ignitions.

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 Hyde’s, your Indio, CA, furnace installation and repair contractor.

photo credit: Starting up again (3 of 4) via photopin (license)