Malfunctioning Furnace Igniter | Types of Igniters
3 minutes read

Malfunctioning Furnace Igniter

Published by Steven Weiland

When your furnace is failing to produce heat, a faulty furnace igniter could be the culprit. The furnace igniter is simply the catalyst that ignites the fuel, lighting the burners, and producing heat in the heat exchanger. If it is not functioning correctly, your furnace will not work as it should.

Types of Igniters

In the past, both furnaces and boilers used pilot lights to ignite the burners. A pilot light is a small, standing flame that is maintained by a connection to a constant flow of gas. This, in turn, will ignite the burners when a larger quantity of gas is released by the gas valve, providing heat whenever it is called for by the thermostat. You may have a pilot light igniter if you have an older model furnace or boiler.

Most furnaces today use electric hot surface igniters, which industry experts agree are more reliable and cost efficient alternatives to pilot lights. A hot surface igniter is electric, eliminating the need for a constant flow of gas to the pilot light, saving energy and money. Hot surface igniters consist of a thin wire made from high-heat resistant metal that glows red hot and produces a spark when the system calls for heat.

Possible Problems

A pilot light can occasionally go out as a result of a draft, requiring it to be manually relit. A dirty or broken thermocouple or sensor can also be the cause of a malfunctioning pilot light.

On the other hand, hot surface igniters have a definite life span. They may last up to five years, but will eventually burn out and need to be replaced. To ensure your igniter lasts as long as possible, maintain your furnace filter by cleaning or changing it as required, and clean carefully around the igniter—but be aware that the wire is very delicate and can easily break if disturbed.

Restoring Heat

It is possible to relight a blown out pilot, and even replace a thermocouple or hot surface igniter yourself—just make sure to consult the furnace or boiler owner’s manual first.

On the other hand, the simplest, quickest, and most reliable way to get your heating system up and running properly is to call on the expert technicians at Heatmasters. We will make sure the job is done correctly, keeping you and your family safe, warm, and comfortable. Furthermore, having a professional check out your HVAC system seasonally is highly recommended. Proper maintenance reduces, and can even eliminate, costly and inconvenient emergency repairs.


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