How To Fix a Failed Furnace Ignitor

When the months get colder, there’s nothing like switching on your heat and sitting cozy under a blanket in your warm home. Although there are many different ways to heat your home, gas furnaces are one of the most reliable and least expensive forms of heating. 

Despite their dependability, furnaces can occasionally experience issues. One of the most common issues you’ll run into with a gas furnace is the failure to ignite and subsequently turn on. Furnace ignitor problems can be very frustrating for homeowners, especially during freezing conditions.

Although you might immediately think you need to call heating experts for your furnace ignitor problems, there are a few ways to troubleshoot the problem yourself.

Types Of Electronic Furnace Ignitors

The first step to diagnosing what type of furnace ignitor problem you’re experiencing is knowing what kind of ignition you have in your home.

The electronic ignition system in a gas furnace is a technological development that has allowed the gas furnace to obtain the reputation of reliable performance. This system also offers energy savings through better energy efficiency. 

There are two main types of electronic furnace ignitors:

  1. Intermittent Pilot: This design uses a small spark to light the pilot, which then ignites the burners. The flame only lights during warming cycles when the furnace needs to switch on rather than on an ongoing basis.
  2. Hot Surface Ignition: This system uses electronic current to heat metal and ignite the gas burner, without using a spark. This is the most commonly used electronic furnace ignitor and is only turned on when the furnace is ready to begin a heating cycle to prevent the constant flow and waste of fuel.
  3. Signs You Have A Furnace Ignitor Issue

    There are a few common indicators that will be the first to hint that you have a malfunctioning ignitor. Here are a few of the signs you should look for when suspecting that something is wrong with your heater.

    Limited heat

    If your furnace is struggling to heat your home consistently, it could be an indication that something is wrong with your ignitor. A cold home could mean that your ignitor is failing and unable to power the burners.

    Frequent cycling

    An erratic burner will cause your thermostat to start and stop the heating cycles of your furnace, translating to your furnace turning on and off repeatedly.

    Overactive blower

    If your furnace is cycling but you don’t feel warm air coming out of the vents, that could mean that you have a faulty or inaccurate limiting switch that shuts off the ignitor early, falsely indicating that it’s time for your blower to push the warm air.

    These signs can tell you that something is wrong with your furnace ignitor, but they could also be indications of more serious issues with your HVAC system as a whole.

    There are steps to troubleshoot each type of electronic furnace ignitor yourself, but without a trained eye, it’s difficult for homeowners to be certain they’ve accurately identified the problem. 

    If you have the slightest inkling that there could be a bigger issue at play, make sure to schedule service with expert heating technicians.

    Troubleshooting Furnace Ignitor Problems

    As you troubleshoot your electronic furnace ignition, you need to identify exactly where the problem is in the system. There are a few things to consider as you attempt to troubleshoot your system.

    1. Check the breaker box

    If a breaker tripped, then your furnace might not have power, explaining why you’re experiencing furnace ignitor issues and why your furnace ignitor is not glowing. Some gas furnaces might also have on-unit power switches, so check to make sure yours is turned on.

    2. Inspect furnace connections

    With an electronic furnace ignition, there’s a good chance there’s simply a loose furnace connection that’s interrupting signals. If you spot an issue with the electrical wiring, contact a certified electrician immediately.

    A DIY electrical job can be dangerous to you and your home if handled incorrectly.

    3. Take a look at the control module

    The control module is a circuit board that commands the signals and input from other devices, such as your thermostat. The components of the board can fail due to electrical surges, damage, or age.

    4. Consider the age of your electronic ignition system

    Naturally, your furnace will outlast the lifespan of your furnace ignitor. If you’re experiencing issues, check to see if it’s time for a new ignitor that can solve these temporary outages.

    If Troubleshooting Fails, Call John C. Flood

    Even after trying each avenue, you might not be able to solve the issues with your furnace ignitor, especially if your furnace ignitor is not glowing.

    Gas furnace-related issues require expert knowledge of electrical systems and natural gas, so if you’re not confident that you know what you’re doing, it’s best to call a professional. A DIY gone wrong can lead to dangerous issues like carbon monoxide leaks.

    To avoid putting yourself or your family in danger, leave the furnace ignitor problems to John C. Flood. Our team has over a century of experience providing furnace-related service to the DMV area. Call (703) 214-5611 or schedule furnace service online today!

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