Because natural gas doesn’t possess any latent heat, gas furnaces require an ignition system to combust the gas and create heat for your home. Your furnace ignitor is a vital component that ensures gas furnaces function safely and efficiently. If the ignitor is damaged or malfunctioning, your furnace may operate poorly or in severe cases not at all. How do you tell if your furnace ignitor is faulty?
Diagnosing the problem depends on the type of furnace ignitor you have. While old furnaces may have a standing pilot light, electronic ignitors are the most common type for modern gas furnaces. We’ll compare the differences in each type as well as how a faulty ignitor affects your furnace and what components can prevent the ignitor from working.
Your furnace ignitor is a key component in the heating cycle. It provides the heat required to combust the furnace’s natural gas supply. This heat is sent into the HVAC system’s air handler before flowing into your ductwork. Without the furnace ignitor, your heating might as well be an expensive fan.
Older furnaces used to have a standing pilot light to keep the gas lit. This small flame would remain lit even between heating cycles. Modern furnaces have transitioned to an electronic ignition system, and these ignitors are safer and more energy efficient. The two most popular types of electronic furnace ignitor are:
Your furnace likely has one of these electronic ignitors. Since they’re housed inside the furnace, damage or component failure isn’t always obvious. Instead, the furnace could stop running like it is supposed to. This is often the initial sign you have a faulty furnace ignitor.
A faulty furnace ignitor can disrupt normal operation in multiple ways. These range from preventing the furnace from running entirely to constant cycles of starting and stopping. Have you noticed your furnace acting in any of the following ways?
The furnace won’t start: Combusting natural gas can be hazardous, especially if a component of the furnace isn’t working properly. When the ignitor is malfunctioning, safety features will stop the furnace from running entirely to prevent further damage or other problems.
The furnace blows cool air: Unheated air coming through your ductwork is a clear sign something is malfunctioning. The furnace might not recognize that the ignitor is malfunctioning and other components like the air handler will work as normal.
The furnace is short cycling: This aggravating problem means the furnace’s heating cycles are too short or repetitive. Not only will it be inadequate for heating your home, but it puts extra strain on the furnace itself. Short cycling can appear when the furnace ignitor flips on and off, which activates the safety features and shuts the furnace off.
In other cases, the ignitor won’t work because another element of your furnace is malfunctioning. When making a furnace repair call, professional technicians in the U.S. might review the following components as well:
Calling a professional technician for furnace repair in the U.S. is the quickest way to solve a problem with the furnace ignitor. They’ll have the tools and training to narrow down potential causes and can start with the most common culprits. Over the course of diagnostics, the technician may try several things, including:
Costs can vary depending on the model of both the furnace and the electronic ignitor. With parts and labor, homeowners could expect to spend an average of $100 to $350 on replacement costs. The average life span of the furnace ignitor is seven7 years, so in some cases the problem is a result of the ignitor simply becoming too old to function properly. Whatever the problem is, a certified technician can find the source and offer the most cost-effective solutions.
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