How to Tell If Your Furnace Ignitor Is Bad

It’s no secret winters in Illinois can get cold, often with temps dipping into the 20s or teens. When the mercury drops, the last thing you want to deal with is a furnace that’s literally leaving you cold. One of the reasons this could happen is because of a part called the furnace ignitor. Here’s what you need to know about this key part and how to tell if this important component may be bad.

woman wrapped in blanket - furnace ignitor

What a Furnace Ignitor Is and What It Does

A furnace ignitor is a small part that has a very big job. It’s responsible for “igniting” or lighting the burner. This is what triggers the combustion process. By converting the fuel for your furnace into heat, it kicks off the process that leaves you with a nice, toasty warm home on cold winter days in Illinois.

Has Your Furnace Stopped Running?

One of the telltale signs you may have a bad ignitor is a furnace that doesn’t run at all. If the ignitor is bad, your furnace may shutdown when attempts are made to turn it on as a safety precaution. However, there are other reasons why a furnace may not run, some of which include:

  • Problems with the thermostat
  • Issues with the blower
  • Circuit breaker problems

Is Your Furnace Blowing Cold Air?

You may also need furnace ignitor replacement if your furnace is blowing cold air. If this happens, first double check to see if your thermostat isn’t still set to cool. If everything is set correctly on your thermostat, a bad ignitor can leave you cold since a lack of combustion means no heated air.

Are Your Furnace Cycles Short?

When your furnace turns on and off, this is known as short-cycling. It’s another safety feature that’s sometimes triggered because of a faulty ignitor. As is the case with the other signs mentioned above, there are several other reasons you may be having shorter furnace cycles. This is why it’s best to have an HVAC professional troubleshoot the problem.

Are You Not Seeing a Glow?

Newer furnaces trigger the combustion process with an electric ignition rather than a pilot light. When the ignitor kicks your furnace into gear, you should see a glow. As for where to look, the ignitor is located where the pilot light used to be located. So, look in this general area to see if there’s a glow. If the answer is no, then it’s time to give an HVAC expert a call.

How a Professional HVAC Company Can Help

One thing a heating and cooling technician can do is help you out with regular furnace maintenance, which allows smaller issues to be detected and fixed ASAP. An HVAC expert can also let you know if it’s worth considering a new furnace or if replacing the ignitor is the better option. Even if you’re not sure if something unusual going on with your furnace is related to the ignitor, err on the side of caution and contact a professional HVAC company.