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Demystifying the Pilot Light

post img 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!
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