Why are Electronic Ignitions Replacing Conventional Pilot Lights in New Furnaces?

A pilot light is a little flame with a big job: it is responsible for igniting a furnace’s burners. Without a pilot light, older furnaces would not be able to provide heat to homes. In most newly installed furnaces, however, this little flame has been replaced by a new device known as an electronic ignition. Today we’re going to talk about why electronic ignitions are replacing conventional standing pilot lights and the benefits of having a furnace with an electronic ignition!

Why are conventional pilot lights being phased out?

A conventional pilot light is a small flame that burns at all times right near a furnace’s burners. When the furnace is ready for a heating cycle, gas is released to the burners and the flame is used to ignite the gas. Although this is effective, there are a few big issues with this process.

One problem with conventional pilot lights is the fact that they must be burning at all times. Although pilot lights consume a small amount of gas, that gas can really add up over time. This decreases the potential efficiency of your furnace and leads to higher energy bills.

Another problem is that pilot lights can periodically blow out. This can happen when the pilot light is dirty, when there are problems with the thermocouple, when there is a strong draft near the furnace or various other reasons. When the pilot light goes out, you must manually relight it in order for your furnace to work properly.

What is an electronic ignition in a furnace?

An electronic ignition is a new and improved version of a pilot light. It takes on the responsibility of a conventional pilot light (lighting the furnace’s burners), but it does so in a more efficient manner.

There are two different types of electronic ignitions. The first is called a hot surface ignition. This type of electronic ignition completely eliminates the need for a flame to light the furnace’s burners. Instead, it uses a metal probe that receives an electronic current whenever a furnace is ready for a heating cycle. This probe heats up to a temperature that’s hot enough to ignite the burners, and then it shuts off when its job is done.

The second type of electronic ignition is known as an intermittent pilot light. This is more like a conventional pilot light, because it still uses a burning flame to light the gas to the burners. The difference is that, as its name suggests, the flame only burns when it is needed. When the furnace is ready for a heating cycle, an electronic spark lights the flame and the burners ignite. As soon as the flame is no longer needed, it shuts off.

What are the benefits of having a furnace with an electronic ignition?

  • Your furnace will be more efficient because gas and electricity are only consumed by the electronic ignition when it is needed.
  • You don’t have to worry about your pilot light blowing out because an electronic ignition is turned on automatically and is only used briefly at the beginning of a heating cycle.
  • There is less of a chance of carbon monoxide being emitted into your home’s air because you don’t have to worry about an inefficiently burning pilot light.

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 Cabrillo, your Bay Area plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractor.