Although most modern furnaces use an electronic igniter for starting, many homes still have furnaces that rely on a continuously lit pilot light. But with warmer temperatures on the way, chances are you're preparing your furnace for a summer of hibernation. Among the other things you can do to prepare your furnace, should turning off your furnace's pilot light be one of them?
Pilot Lights and Energy Consumption
Even when your furnace is turned off, it still uses a small amount of fuel to keep the pilot light going. Although the pilot light is roughly the same size as a typical candle flame, it burns hotter thanks to its fuel source. According to experts, a typical pilot light consumes between 5 and 12 therms each month, depending on how it's adjusted. Factor in the cost of natural gas or propane in your area and you can see how the cost of this standby usage can add up over the summer months.
A continuously lit pilot light on a dormant furnace not only consumes fuel, but it can also add unwanted heat to your home. Given the 5 to 12-therm figure, the pilot light could add up to 40,000 additional BTUs of heat to your home each day. The added heat can place additional strain on your air conditioner, making it run longer and use more energy just to remove the excess heat.
Benefits of Turning Off Your Pilot Light
There are plenty of immediate benefits associated with extinguishing your furnace's pilot light for the summer. For starters, you'll start seeing your natural gas or propane consumption drop to lower levels. The lowered energy consumption can also help you save money on your utility expenses, although the amount you could save depends on the price of heating fuel and how much fuel you normally use during the winter. One expert found that this energy-saving tactic could reduce energy costs by $14.61 to $20.09 each year.
Turning off your furnace's pilot light for the summer also adds greater peace of mind when preparing your furnace for hibernation. Combined with removing debris from around the furnace and keeping the air filter clean, shutting off the furnace's pilot light and fuel source can help minimize fire hazards. Keeping the pilot light off and the gas valves closed also prevents dangerous gas fumes from accumulating inside your home.
Also, with the pilot light turned off for several months at a time, the pilot light tube may not accumulate as much debris as they would if the pilot light stayed on. This means you won't have to clean the pilot lighting equipment as often.
There are only a couple of drawbacks to turning off your furnace's pilot light. For starters, you'll eventually have to manually relight the pilot before you're able to use the furnace again. Keep in mind that the steps for relighting a pilot light can vary depending on the make and model of your furnace, so it's best to look at your furnace's user guide before proceeding.
Another drawback is that you won't be able to use your furnace to heat your entire home on demand. This can be an issue in cooler climates where hot summer temperatures can briefly give way to slightly colder weather on occasion. Fortunately, you may be able to get around this issue by using electric portable heaters. Modern portable heaters are relatively energy-efficient, which should ease concerns over excess energy consumption and the resulting utility bills that come with energy waste.
It's up to you to decide whether you want to keep your pilot light going for convenience's sake or turn it off to save a few bucks on your heating and cooling bills. For more information or tips on furnace maintenance, talk with a furnace repair company, such as Custom Comfort.