Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing Blog

Common Problems with Electronic Ignition

Strides are always being made to make heating systems more reliable. One step that has been taken with combustion furnaces is electronic ignition. With electronic ignition, you no longer have to worry about constantly fueling a standing pilot light because there isn’t one; instead, there is either a hot surface igniter or an intermittent pilot. Electronic ignition is usually standard on today’s furnaces, and you may be able to retrofit your existing furnace with electronic ignition. Let’s take a look at each type below.

Intermittent Pilot

An intermittent pilot works by having a small gas line that is just for your system’s pilot light. When the thermostat cues the furnace to start, the gas is allowed to flow from this small pilot gas line. A small electronic device creates a spark that shoots across the gas jet, lighting the pilot. A flame sensor monitors the pilot flame to see if it is lit and running properly, and when it senses that the pilot light is operable, the flame sensor allows the main gas valve to open and the burner to be lit. Some of the common problems that can develop with an intermittent pilot are:

  • Failure with the electronic spark
  • Loose connection with the thermostat
  • Incorrect positioning of the pilot gas pipe
  • Dirty nozzle

Hot Surface Ignition

A hot surface ignition probe works similarly to a light bulb. When the thermostat sends the cue to begin ignition, two strips of differing metal heat inside a silicone casing. Once the metal strips heat to the correct temperature, the gas ignited and the burner lights. One of the main problems that occurs with a hot surface ignition probe is that it gets dirty; even a fingerprint on the casing can impede ignition. Another common problem is cracking. The probe is exposed to very high and low temperatures, and eventually develops cracks, which effect its ability to ignite the gas.

Delayed Ignition: A Common and Potentially Dangerous Problem for Both

One common problem that can develop with either igniter is delayed ignition. Electronic igniters are designed to light immediately; any delay in ignition results in an excess of gas accumulation. This is usually characterized by a boom or banging sound right before ignition occurs. This can be a potentially dangerous situation and should be repaired immediately.

Electronic ignition can save energy, but if it isn’t working correctly, a dirty or impaired igniter can leave you without heat. If you are in need of heating repair in Rockville, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing today and schedule an appointment with one of our NATE-certified experts.