Written on: October 2, 2023
If you have an older gas furnace in your Georgia home, your heating unit relies on a small blue flame known as a pilot light to ensure the ignition of the burners. Water heaters, gas fireplaces, and old gas stoves often have similar pilot lights. Here’s how to know: if your furnace has a round knob on the gas valve with the words OFF/ON/PILOT/, you have what’s known as a standing pilot ignition.
As you’ve probably learned from experience, the biggest drawback to pilot lights is that they will get extinguished at times. This will cause you to lose your heat. Common reasons for a pilot light to go out include a nearby draft, dirt buildup, or a malfunctioning thermocouple.
Another drawback is energy waste. Since the pilot light needs to remain active, your furnace is always consuming some propane gas. It’s not a lot, but that obviously adds up over time.
There is a safety issue as well. Pilot lights can develop problems that cause them to burn inefficiently. When this happens, a small amount of carbon monoxide can be released into your home.
These problems are not an issue when you have a modern propane gas furnace, which uses electronic ignition instead of an old-fashioned pilot light.
Most furnaces with electronic ignition have a device called a hot surface igniter. This is a small electronic device that receives an electrical current whenever your thermostat calls for heat. The ignition heats up to a temperature that is hot enough to ignite the gas to your burners, and then it shuts off after it has done its job.
Another type of electronic ignition is an intermittent pilot light. This uses a small flame to ignite the burners just like a conventional pilot light. The difference is that the flame is only lit (by an electronic spark) when your furnace is ready for a heating cycle. When the pilot light is not needed, it is completely off, saving you money on propane gas.
Although you can still find gas furnaces with standing pilot lights, they have mostly become obsolete since 2010. If you have a furnace installed after 2010, it almost certainly doesn’t use a pilot light to light the burners but relies on an electronic ignition system instead.
Modern propane gas furnaces are best in their class in terms of efficiency. They have efficiency ratings from 90%–98%. This means that less than 10 % of the propane used for heating is lost to combustion.
Besides an electronic ignition system, new propane furnaces use vent dampers in the flue to help lower your energy costs. When your home is heated to the desired temperature, the vent dampers close, keeping residual heat in to be circulated in the home rather than venting outdoors. The vent dampers open when you need more heat. That allows the fumes from combustion to safely vent out of your home. Because the burner in your furnace cannot ignite when the damper is closed, you’ll only be using propane when you need more heating.
Read more about the benefits of a new propane gas furnace installation.