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Bartels Heating & Cooling Blog

Why Electronic Ignition Replaced the Pilot Light in Furnaces

When people think about gas furnaces, they often think of pilot lights—those small, steady burning flames that wait inside furnaces to ignite the burners. However, if you go to your home’s furnace right now and look for the pilot light, you probably won’t find one. The reason is that the standing pilot light has been mostly replaced with electronic ignitions systems.

Why did this change happen? Follow along below, and we’ll tell you the story of why electronic ignition is now the standard.

Standing Pilot Lights and Electronic Ignition

The standing pilot light has been around for as long as there’s been furnaces that run on heating oils and natural gas. The light stays burning through the season, and whenever fuel starts to flow to the burners, the flame is in place to ignite the main burners. 

Pilot lights were effective—but they weren’t the best way to handle furnace ignition because they presented issues with energy efficiency, reliability, and safety. Electronic ignition systems emerged as a better alternative and have become the dominant type. 

There are two types of electronic ignition systems. Hot-surface ignition systems raise the temperature of a filament with electrical resistance heating to ignite the burners. Intermittent pilot ignition systems temporarily light a pilot light with electronic ignition, and the pilot light goes out once the burners ignite

The Advantages of Electronic Ignition

Energy Efficiency

Constantly burning a pilot light throughout the winter season is an additional drain on energy that results in higher gas bills. Electronic ignition removes this problem, since even when they do use a pilot light, the flame only comes on for as long as necessary. Electronic ignition will easily pay for itself over the life of a furnace.

Improved Safety

Standing pilot lights present several safety hazards, such as gas leaks and causing unintentional ignition (flame roll-out). Electronic ignition is a safer way to operate, providing a safer and more controlled flame ignition. Industry safety regulations have changed to encourage homeowners to adopt electronic ignition furnaces.

Smart Home Integration

Electronic ignition systems have some special technological advantages over pilot lights. For example, electronic ignition systems can be integrated into smart home systems. This allows for easier control and monitoring of furnaces as part of a smart home, which also increases energy efficiency and safety. We can expect further advances in electronic ignition technology, something that couldn’t happen with the old-fashioned pilot light.

Upgrading Your Furnace

If you have a furnace that uses a standing pilot light, you don’t need to immediately replace it. However, the furnace is probably quite old because pilot lights haven’t been the standard in the manufacture of furnaces for more than a decade. Gas fireplaces can usually last for around 15 years, and if your pilot light-ignited gas furnace is that old, you have many reasons to upgrade to a new furnace—starting with an electronic ignition system.

If you want to know more about replacing your furnace, reach out to our team. We can give you an expert opinion on when you need to upgrade your furnace and what models will work best for you. If you have a broken furnace ignition system, we offer furnace repair in Oxford to take care of it.

Bartels Heating & Cooling has served Hamilton, OH Since 1973. Call us for furnace repair and other heating services.

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