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How Does a Gas Heating Ignition System Work?

opening-furnace-cabinet-glovesWhen you hear the furnace power on, do you know exactly what goes on to bring that heat to you? You likely know the basics: that heat is generated by an ignition system and that a fan then blows heated air into your home.

While it’s not important to know too much more about the operation of your heating system—technicians can take care of most of what you need—it’s nice to know a thing or two about furnace operation so you know what to do when things go haywire.

Whether you have a standing gas pilot or an electronic ignition system, here are the very basics about how heat is generated. Contact our team for more information!

Standing Pilot

Many gas heating systems still operate with a standing gas pilot light. This means that the ignition system remains lit, with a fire burning throughout the day and night. While this was once necessary, thankfully it is not anymore, as this method was inefficient and sometimes unsafe depending on the age of the system. (We’ll get into the alternative in the next section).

If you do have a standing gas pilot light heating your furnace, it’s important to know how to maintain it. This means holding yourself accountable for turning it off when warm weather starts back up and turning it on (or calling someone to do it) before winter.

So how does this system work? Simple!

  • A small pilot light remains lit at all times, burning fuel to maintain a flame.
  • When the thermostat calls for heat, the main gas valve activates so that pilot can light the main burners to generate heat.
  • Thanks to safety devices within the unit, the

Electronic Ignition

Today, many modern furnaces rely on electronic ignition instead of a standing gas pilot. This means that there’s no need to waste fuel by keeping a pilot on at all times. We highly recommend replacing an older furnace that uses a standing pilot in many cases so the homeowner can save money in the long-term.

However, it’s a bit more complicated to understand how it works, and how to maintain it, so you should rely on professional technicians whenever you need service. There are two types to know about.

Intermittent Pilots

An intermittent pilot system generates a high voltage spark to light the burners of the furnace. This only happens when the thermostat calls for heat, and the gas burner is shut off again when the furnace cycles off.

Hot Surface Ignition

A hot surface igniter has the ability to get incredibly hot quickly via electricity. It works a bit like a light bulb filament, but the goal is to produce heat rather than light. The heat exchanger is made of silicon carbide, which can glow red hot when

This type of ignition is one of the most popular, as it’s rather inexpensive. However, you may have to replace the hot surface igniter every few years.

When you need service for your home heating in Lockport, IL, no matter what type of ignition system your furnace uses, contact the pros at Johansen & Anderson Inc.

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