We often receive calls from customers who tell us that their pilot light has gone out in their furnace and they need it to be re-lit. Well, most of the time, when it comes to furnace pilot lights, they no longer exist. At least not the old standing pilot light. Pilot lights started being phased out of furnaces in the early 1980’s, and almost all modern furnaces today either use hot surface ignition or direct spark ignition as a means to ignite the main burners of the furnace. Some “newer” furnaces (12-15 years old) still use an intermittent pilot ignition system, but most furnaces have completely done away with the pilot light altogether.
Bottom line is this: If your furnace does indeed still have a standing pilot, it’s probably time to consider getting a new furnace. A standing pilot furnace tells me one thing for sure……it’s a very old furnace and it’s not an efficient furnace. And standing pilot light furnaces are more prone to safety issues. I’ve run across many furnaces over the years that are backdrafting carbon monoxide and/or experiencing flame rollout due to soot that has been produced in the heat exchanger by a constantly burning standing pilot light, thus not allowing the furnace’s exhaust fumes to vent properly.
Newer furnaces burn much cleaner due to higher efficiencies and are much less likely to produce incomplete combustion and carbon monoxide. If your home was constructed from the mid 1980’s or later, it is very unlikely that the furnace will have a standing pilot flame. The vast majority use a hot surface ignitor while others use a direct spark for ignition.