Demystifying the Pilot Light

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Brrr! It is the middle of winter and you wake up one morning to the realization that your home is freezing. You immediately check the thermostat to see what’s going on and everything looks good.

What do you do now? If you have an older furnace, the next logical step is to check if the pilot light is out. Were you aware that your furnace has a pilot light? If not, a pilot light is a small flame that burns continuously inside your furnace whether it is running or not. The basic idea is to provide the flame needed to light the gas coming out of the main burner. When the furnace “turns on,” a valve releases gas into the burner and the pilot light ignites that gas. Newer furnaces use an electronic ignition to start up the furnace during a heating cycle.

Furnaces with a pilot light are older and need to be serviced and possibly replaced more often. Typically, furnaces should be serviced once a year, preferably in the fall so they are ready for the winter weather. No one wants to be in a panic if something breaks down and left with a cold home. An older model that still has a pilot light should be serviced twice a year – once in the fall and once in spring.  Spring check-ups are recommended because after a season’s continuous use, something might have cracked or started leaking. Potential gas leaks or a compromised flow to the pilot light could lead to a potentially dangerous or even fatal carbon monoxide scenario. To be safe, schedule a preventative checkup before the winter season so there’s no panicky freezing mornings without heat. At the end of winter, have it checked again to make sure it will still be able to function properly while it isn’t running full force.

Newer furnaces use electronic ignition systems making the ongoing pilot light unnecessary. This makes furnaces more reliable, safe and best of all, energy-efficient. There are two types of electronic ignitions: a hot surface ignition and an intermittent pilot. A hot surface ignition uses an electrical current to heat up to a high enough temperature to ignite the furnace’s burner. The electronic ignition is only turned on when a heating cycle is about to begin subsequently eliminating the need for a constant fuel source.  An intermittent pilot light still uses a small gas-powered flame to ignite the furnace’s burner, and it is started by an electronic spark and only burns when a heating cycle is about to begin. Once it is lit the fuel supply is then shut off.

For more information on servicing your furnace or to discuss your options for upgrading to a newer, more energy-efficient and reliable model, call the experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today!

"Ernie & Mike did a superb job on my new furnace and A/C installation. Despite having more than a day’s work to do, they came in and stayed until the job was done. They were organized, efficient, and protected the rest of the house well. Got both furnace and A/C installed the same day. Ernie was courteous, informative, and clearly knew his job better than anyone I’ve encountered before. The units look so good guests now get The Tour of our new system. Apollo is clearly not a fly-by-night company. I would recommend them to anyone in need of a new furnace and/or A/C."
- Jerry A.
"I called Apollo because of a water leak I thought I had in our upstairs shower going into the kitchen. Robbie came and assured me everything was fine & looked at all the other plumbing. He ended up changing a few pipes for our washer & clearing a drain. He was very nice & knowledgeable with all my questions. I ended up signing up for the care plan & was very happy with my service."
- Cassandra B.
"The team at Apollo exceeded my expectations. As a business owner, my attention to the details and commitment to providing excellent service is high. From the sales rep. to the installation team, everyone’s performance was outstanding. For example, the installation team went to great lengths to protect our floors, placing floor runners and across the wood floors and up the stairs. They even were spot washing walls upon their departure. I highly recommend this company."
- Randy B.
"We scheduled an estimate AND a tune-up. We knew something was wrong with our furnace, but hoped we could make it through the rest of the season. Upon telling Bill what our furnace was doing, he warned us immediately what the possible outcome was going to be; a cracked heat exchanger. He watched the flames roll backward, tested carbon monoxide levels, which were so high they meter’s last reading was 5,600 before saying “high”. He immediately shut it down, tagged it, and explained that with levels that high and children in our home he wanted off right away. He continued his inspection and showed us via a camera that not only was it cracked in multiple places, but had holes all over it. He gave us a few options for repairing it; his knowledge as well as genuine concern was beneficial and refreshing. Luckily we also scheduled an estimator, Micah, to come too and we were able to get costs between repairing and replacing (with several options). We decided to replace with a much higher efficiency furnace and one sized properly to our home. Hands down, not only did they both provide us great service and knowledge, but without sounding dramatic, they may have saved our lives. This was our first time calling Apollo, but it won’t be our last."
- Sarah B.
"Apollo is an excellent company. I always receive great service. Alex A. was professional and friendly. He kept me informed during the process of checking my furnace and heat pump to make sure they were working properly. The company makes sure you are notified who is coming and when they are on the way. All my interactions with the company have been wonderful."
- Beverly S.



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