For a gas-burning furnace to work during the winter keeping a building warm, it must have a system in place to ignite the main burner. Once lit, the burner creates the hot combustion gas that enters the heat exchangers and transfers to the air from the blower and into the house. For many decades, a pilot light was the standard way that furnaces lit their burners, but other more efficient and dependable methods have taken the place of the pilot light.
One thing that all furnace ignition systems have in common is that they should only receive maintenance and repair work from trained professionals. It’s potentially hazardous to attempt amateur work on the burner of a gas furnace, so if you should encounter a failed pilot light or electronic igniter in your home’s furnace, only call for repair experts. Basnett Plumbing & Heating has many years of experience working on furnaces in Dunstable, MA and throughout the MetroWest Area. Contact us whenever you need repairs to keep your furnace working.
The different types of furnace ignition systems
- Standing pilot light: Although electronic igniters are more common in modern furnaces, you will still find furnaces that use a standing pilot light to ignite the burners. If you have an old furnace, it probably uses a traditional pilot light. If this is the case, you should consider replacing the furnace with a new and more energy-efficient unit.
- Intermittent pilot light: This is a type of electronic igniter that lights up the pilot light only when it is needed, rather than letting the pilot light continue to burn and consume energy. A high voltage electric spark ignites the pilot whenever heat is required; once a flame sensing rod determines that the pilot light is on, the main burners ignite. After the pilot light goes out, the flame sensor shuts off the burner as well.
- Hot surface igniters: This is the most up-to-date ignition system for furnaces. They work similar to the filaments in light bulbs: electricity passes through silicon carbide or nitride and causes the metal to glow hot. This heat is what lights the burners, and then shuts off when no longer needed. Because hot surface igniters do not use any sort of pilot light, they are both highly efficient and reliable. However, a single igniter will not usually last for the entirety of the furnace’s lifetime, and it will need replacement every 3-5 years.
If your furnace is not turning on when it should, a failed ignition system is one of the likely culprits.
Call Basnett Plumbing & Heating and we will send a skilled professional, one who has repaired many furnaces in Dunstable, MA, and help you get your heating system running once more.