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Goodbye, Pilot Light: Electronic Ignition in Your Gas Furnace

Posted on: February 15, 2016

The gas furnace is the most common type of heating system found in homes around the country, and for some very good reasons. Gas furnaces can produce higher levels of heat than other types of systems, and they are cost-effective because natural gas is a less expensive energy source than electricity and other heating oils.

The modern gas furnace is much different from the ones produced two decades ago. Along with superior construction and innovations such as variable-speed fans, one of the biggest changes with the modern furnace is the disappearance of the old standing pilot light that ignited the burners.

The old job of the pilot light

You may remember a time when you would start off the winter by lighting the pilot light in the furnace. This flame would burn throughout the season, ready whenever the gas burners turned on to ignite the jets and start combustion. But these pilot lights were often unreliable, and they consumed energy all day and all night, even when the furnace didn’t need to run.

Electronic ignition systems

The standing pilot light has given way to electronic ignition systems that use less energy and are more dependable. There are two different kind of electronic ignition systems.

The first is called an electric spark igniter, which activates the pilot light only at times when it’s needed. When the furnace turns on, a valve opens up and allows the gas to flow to the pilot light. An electric spark then lights the pilot light so it can in turn light the burners. When the furnace shuts off, the valve closes and the pilot light goes out.

The second and more common type of electronic ignition system is the hot surface igniter. This type doesn’t use any pilot light at all. Instead, it work like the filaments in a lightbulb, turning glowing hot as electric current runs through it. This heat is what ignites the gas jets.

Thanks to electronic ignition systems, current furnaces are more energy efficient, dependable, and safe than ever before.

If you need service for a gas furnace, just call Bud Matthews Services in Durham, NC.

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