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Hot Surface Ignitors

As furnaces have advanced, the old standard pilot light system has gone the way of the Dodo, giving way for advanced technologies. Many modern furnaces use hot surface ignitors, or HSIs. Essentially, the HSI's function resembles that of a light bulb, only in this case the product isn't light but heat. A thermostat calls for heat, causing electricity to pass through the ignitor until it glows red hot, at which point it lights the burners.

Types Of Hot Surface Ignitors

Hot surface ignitors are either made of silicon carbide or silicon nitride. Essentially, silicon carbide models are older versions, and silicon nitride are the modernized version, the main variation being durability. Estimated in some circles to be seven times more durable than silicon carbide, a silicon nitride ignitor uses modern and more advanced ceramic technology. Silicon nitride ignitors are also considerably more energy efficient, using less than half the energy to power them as required by the older silicon carbide ignitors.

Replacing Or Repairing A Hot Surface Ignitor

Referring to the earlier light bulb analogy, these parts are basically replacement items. Consensus is that a silicon carbide ignitor will last between three and five years. Estimates vary on silicon nitride, with some saying twice as long, others saying as much as seven times as long. Considering that the part is continually getting hot and cold, it seems unlikely that the part will last 20 to 30 years, particularly since many professionals recommend keeping an extra part on hand just in case it blows in the middle of the night or during a drastic cold snap. There are many different designs in terms of appearance for the ignitors, but they are largely interchangeable if they'll fit in the furnace space available. It used to be that carbide ignitors were unable to be replaced by nitride models, but that has since been remedied with the mass approval of the nitride component. As such, many universal nitride parts come with adapters so they fit to the carbide setup.

Who Makes Replacement Hot Surface Ignitors?

There are many companies that make replacement ignitors, most prominent among them being Robertshaw, Uni-Line, or White-Rogers, which says its Universal Nitride Ignitor Upgrade Kit can replace virtually all silicon carbide systems in the field. Other companies making HSIs include:

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