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A-Avis Home Services Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. Blog

Common Problems with Electronic Ignition

For decades, the standing pilot light has been the ignition source of choice for combustion-based heating systems. Though it has served well, the standing pilot light has developed a negative reputation for a number of shortcomings. These shortcomings have been mostly addressed by the advent of the electronic ignition system, which is now commonplace among more modern heating systems. Though electronic ignition solves a number of problems, it has introduced a number of its own. Let’s take a look at how electronic ignition works, and some common problems that it can run into.

What is Electronic Ignition

The standing pilot light’s biggest issues were that it was constantly wasting energy, while also going out on a fairly regular basis. Electronic ignition fixes this issue by only coming on when it is needed. There are two common types of electronic ignition: intermittent and hot surface.

Intermittent ignition, sometimes called intermittent pilot, works by generating an electrical spark to ignite the burners and start the system. Hot surface ignition works by using a heating element to light the burners.


Intermittent and hot surface ignition each have their own set of issues. We’ll address the hot surface ignition issues first. As mentioned above, hot surface ignition systems use heating elements to light the main burners on the heating system. These heating elements are actually very similar to the element in a light bulb, save that they are designed to give off more heat than light. Just like a light bulb, these heating elements will eventually fail from the stress of constantly heating and cooling. This vulnerability can be exacerbated by issues like voltage being too high (which will cause the element to burn out) or short-cycling, which increases stress on all parts of the system.

Intermittent pilots don’t rely on heating elements, but are still vulnerable to breakdowns. Most often, these systems are affected by lack of power to the heater or short-circuits in the control system. The electrode that provides the spark itself may also become damaged, though it is rare.

If your electronic ignition system is acting up, call Avis Plumbing, Heating and Air to schedule professional heating service in Riverside.

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