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No Pilot Light in Your Furnace? New Furnaces Use This Instead…


The pilot light in a furnace that ignites the burners is so much a part of our collective understanding of how gas furnaces work that some homeowners find themselves surprised when they discover their new furnace doesn’t need a pilot light.

“Where’s the pilot? How can I re-light it when it goes out?” It’s a question installers often hear from customers. The answer is that furnaces now use electronic ignition systems that make the “standing” pilot unnecessary. This makes furnaces more reliable, safe, and best of all, energy-efficient.

If you have more questions about the operation of your furnace in Cary, NC, or if you need repairs to replace your electronic igniter, contact the company with 20 years of experience serving Wake County and the surrounding areas: Raleigh Heating & Air.

Electronic ignition systems

There are two basic types of electronic igniters in modern furnaces: hot surface igniters and intermittent pilots.

  • Intermittent pilots still use a pilot light, however it isn’t a “standing” pilot light that remains on all the time to ignite the burner whenever the gas turns on. Instead, the pilot light only comes on when it needs to ignite the burner. When the thermostat signals the need for heat, an electric system creates a spark that causes the pilot to come on, and then the pilot activates the burners. When the burners shut off at the end of the heating cycle, the pilot also goes out. This reduces the amount of fuel used because a standing pilot light drains energy.
  • Hot surface igniters are the more common form of electronic ignition, and require no pilot light at all. A hot surface igniter works similar to a light bulb: they are made from silicon nitride or silicon carbide, and when the thermostat signals for heat, electric current passes through the igniter and turns its surface hot. When the surface grows hot enough, the gas valve opens up and sends gas to the burner, where the heat of the igniter activates it.

Both electronic systems will need replacement every few years, so make sure that you have regular maintenance scheduled. Your heating technician will determine when you need to have a replacement and supply you with one. In this way, you’ll keep your furnace working safely and efficiently for many years.

Call Raleigh Heating & Air today for installation of a furnace in Cary, NC, or to sign up for our Raleigh Heating and Air Comfort Club to keep your current furnace in the best shape possible.

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