Lifeline Plumbing, Heating & Cooling


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Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Serving all of Chicagoland


Heating Question: What Is Electronic Ignition?

The familiar way that gas-powered furnaces, boilers, and hot water heaters turn on their gas jets to begin the heating process is with a pilot light. The pilot light has a gas supply running to it to keep it lit, and a thermocouple registers when it is on so that, should the flame go out for some reason, the thermocouple will in turn shut off the gas.

However, with the new high efficiency systems now available (furnaces can score 90% or higher AFUE), more gas-powered heaters use an electronic ignition system. These ignition systems help the furnaces and boilers achieve their high fuel efficiency ratings. Some models still us a pilot light along with the electronic ignition, but most need only the electronic igniter.

Similar to pilot lights, electronic igniters aren’t pieces of equipment a homeowner should tamper with if they develop faults. Electronic ignition systems are still connected to a gas-powered device, and you should always leave such systems to professionals. Make sure you use caution for problems with your heating in Naperville, IL and contact Lifeline Plumbing for repairs.

How does electronic ignition operate?

There are two main designs for electronic igniters: furnace intermittent pilots and hot surface igniters.

Furnace intermittent pilots: This system still uses a pilot light, but it only comes on when the thermostat requires heat and doesn’t burn steadily. When the thermostat registers the need for heat, a high voltage electric spark ignites the pilot light, which then turns on the main burners.

Hot surface igniters: These are the most common electronic ignitions systems because of their low cost and reliability. They are made from silicon nitride (or sometimes silicon carbide), and as electricity passes through them, they begin to turn red hot—similar to the way a light bulb filament works. A flame detector senses the heat from the igniter, opens the burner valve, and the heat from the igniter turns on the jets. It requires no pilot light at all. These igniters will last for a good many years, but will probably need replacement before your heater does. Have an HVAC expert handle this.

Lifeline Plumbing provides 24/7 urgent care if you should encounter trouble with your electronic igniter, or any other issues with your heating in Naperville, FL. We cover many kinds of services, from plumbing and air conditioning to bathroom remodeling. Make us your first call for home comfort!