With fall already underway and winter right around the corner, many Americans are firing up their furnaces again to keep warm throughout the holiday season. But what if you wake up to find your house is freezing cold, even though you turned on the furnace the night before? If this happens in your home, chances are you’ve got a broken furnace ignitor.
Traditionally, furnaces have used a source called a pilot light to keep warm air flowing throughout your house. You may have even seen a family member light the household furnace’s pilot light in the past, or maybe this was a task you had to do yourself. In modern systems, however, the exposed pilot light has been replaced by the furnace ignitor. Ever heard that clicking sound your furnace makes when you turn it on? This is the ignitor creating a spark that connects with the gas in your system. In some systems, furnace ignitors also work by touching the surface of the gas to heat the air blowing from the furnace. But no matter what kind of furnace/furnace ignitor you have, it is always a good idea to call for periodic heating maintenance. While the average furnace can last up to 15 years, you will normally have to replace the ignitor after roughly seven years, so it’s important to get your unit serviced annually. Keep reading for the top signs you’re dealing with a broken furnace ignitor, and remember that you can always call our experienced heating pros at Premier Indoor Comfort Systems for all your furnace needs.
The Top 5 Signs Your Furnace Ignitor Is Broken:
- Problems Turning On: If your furnace never turns on, no matter how high you set the temperature, it is likely that your ignitor is at fault. Double check that your thermostat is set to heat your home rather than cool it, and then make sure it is turned up high enough that your system will automatically come on. You should also check your electrical panel, and make sure the problem isn’t stemming from a tripped circuit breaker (we’ll talk more about this later.) If you find that the furnace breaker is on, then you’re likely dealing with an ignitor issue, or a larger electrical problem. Either way, you should call a professional to take a look. Remember, you should also hear that “click, click, click” noise whenever you turn your ignitor on. If you attempt to get your furnace running and you do not hear this sound, your ignitor will probably have to be repaired or replaced.
- Frequent Cycling: Cycling occurs when an HVAC system frequently turns off and on. When it comes to furnaces, cycling is often directly linked to ignitor problems. When your ignitor is dying, it usually cannot hold a charge long enough to spark the air in your furnace. It may activate the system for a bit, but not long enough to provide the consistent heating power you need. And after your ignitor tries and fails to start your furnace once, it usually won’t be able to try again for another minute, due to safety features. Remember, cycling is not only bad for your comfort it’s bad for your HVAC equipment, so if you have been noticing your equipment cycling recently, always call a skilled heating technician to take care of the problem ASAP.
- Problems Blowing Air: When a furnace has problems providing warm air, a faulty ignitor is often at fault. Check your air filter before jumping to conclusions and see if it is dirty. Dirty air filters often interfere with successful furnace operation, so if your filter is looking a little nasty, either replace it or wash it (assuming it’s reusable) before turning your furnace on again. There may also be some larger piece of debris stuck in your system, preventing the filter from doing its job. If you have found that your filter is not the problem, then chances are the ignitor is at the source of your furnace troubles.
- Only Blows Cold Air: When your furnace ignitor stops working, your system will be unable to warm the air it pulls from outside, so you end up only getting cold air circulated around your home. Check the thermostat as we discussed above to ensure it is set high enough to provide you with a consistent supply of warm air. If it is, then there’s a good chance your furnace ignitor is on its way out, and will need to be replaced.
- Tripped Circuit Breakers: As we mentioned above, a furnace ignitor sometimes won’t turn on because of a tripped circuit. Conversely, if your furnace consistently trips the circuit after it is turned on, the reverse problem may be occurring, and the culprit is likely the ignitor. Keep in mind that frequently tripping your circuit breaker can damage both your furnace and your larger electrical system, so you should always get this taken care of sooner rather than later. Your furnace does have built-in fail-safes to prevent property damage/bodily harm from occurring if something goes wrong, but that does not mean you shouldn’t take precautions. If your ignitor is causing your breaker to trip, turn off the breaker first, then contact an experienced HVAC technician at Premier Indoor Comfort Systems. We promise to get your furnace up and running again before you know it!