gas furnace ignition control boardHigh Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas FurnacesHigh-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces are here. They are the next step up from the standing pilot gas furnace. These gas furnaces are more efficient than the standing pilot furnaces but more complex in design. There are three types of electronic ignition gas furnaces: the intermittent spark pilot, the intermittent hot surface ignition pilot (Honeywell Smartvalve and ignition assembly) and the hot surface ignition furnaces. While the three are different they all offer higher efficiencies and are both controlled by solid-state circuit boards. Many of these furnaces also have higher efficient heat exchangers.

High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

When the intermittent pilot or hot surface ignition controls are combined with improved and more efficient heat exchangers, the result is a furnace that can be 80 percent or more efficient versus the older standing pilot gas furnaces which average only 60 to 70 percent efficient. Modern furnaces have electronic ignition and are far more efficient. The higher AFUE gas furnaces also feature two heat exchangers which require different types of flues. You can purchase a high-efficiency gas furnace in either single stage furnace, two-stage furnace, or be modulating furnace types.

New regulations by the Department Energy require manufacturers, distributors, and contractors to install minimum level efficiency gas furnaces based on your region. Essential, they are getting rid of the old gas hogs of the past and introducing newer, more efficient gas furnaces. While you may pay more for the higher efficiency furnace, in the long run, it will pay for itself in lower energy costs.

High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

Intermittent Spark-Ignition Pilot | High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

The intermittent spark-ignition pilot gas furnace, upon a call for heat (when the thermostat closes), will go through a trial for ignition. (Note that the spark generated in this process can exceed 10,000 volts). When a pilot flame is proven (normally through flame rectification) the electronic module or circuit board sends a signal to the main valve, in the gas valve, to open. The pilot lights the main burner and it burns until the thermostat is satisfied. When the thermostat is satisfied, the electronic module or circuit board stops all ignition processes including the pilot.

Intermittent Hot Surface-Ignition Pilot | High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

Honeywell engineers came up with a variation between the hot surface ignition and the intermittent pilot. They simply put a small hot surface igniter on a pilot light assembly along with the flame sensor. They then put all the solid-state circuitry components necessary to light the pilot light and sense the flame on the pilot inside the gas valve (versus have a separate circuit board mounted in another panel away from the mechanical gas controls). Aside from a few bugs in initial production models, the Honeywell Smart Valve works very well. The sequence of operation for these smart valves is the same as the sequence of operation for the intermittent pilot light.

Hot Surface Ignition: Furnace Ignition | High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

The Hot Surface Ignition Furnace has no pilot light. It lights the burners direct. Therefore it is also referred to at times as Direct Ignition. The igniter is made of silicon-carbon and glows red hot when power is applied to it. The igniter is positioned above the burner. Upon a call for heat, the furnace enters a sequence of operation. Normally, after the purge cycle, power is applied to the igniter. It glows red hot the gas valve opens allowing gas to flow. When the gas makes contact with the igniter, ignition occurs. Once the flame is proven (usually with flame rectification), the power to the igniter is discontinued. The burners continue to burn until the thermostat satisfies when the furnace goes into shutdown mode and shuts itself down until the next call for heat.

HVAC Furnace Efficiency Defined | High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

The percentage of efficiency as described here means that if a furnace is 80 percent efficient than 80 percent of the heat it produces is usable heat beneficial to the home and the other 20 percent is vented into the atmosphere through the flue with the noxious gases that are a result of the combustion process. Thus, the higher the efficiency of an HVAC furnace the lower the temperature of the flue gases simply because much of the usable heat produced by the HVAC furnace is used in the home instead of vented into the atmosphere. This causes two separate functions that must be overcome by mechanical means.

Mechanical Venting
  1. Since the temperature of the vent gases is negligible and gas typically contains approximately five percent moisture content, the moisture is condensed through the process of combustion. This moisture needs a place to drain. Normally, this drain is tied into the same drain that drains the Air Conditioning condensation but could be drained in another location.
  2. Because so much heat is removed and used in the home, the pressure or force needed to exhaust the flue gases is too small to force the noxious gases outside. This is the main reason why all high-efficiency furnaces have induced draft motors attached to them. The inducer motor forces a draft through the entire system from the beginning of the combustion process to the end where the noxious gases are exhausted. Modern electronic HVAC furnaces are more efficient because you don’t need to keep a pilot light burning 24/7.

Additionally, there have been major changes made in heat exchangers. Changing your current HVAC furnace from a standing pilot furnace to a modern electronic gas furnace can make a difference in your comfort and the amount you pay on your fuel bill next winter.

Furnace Efficiency Standards DOE Map

High-Efficiency Condensing Gas Furnaces | High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

With today’s high prices of all fuels, it is not only good to conserve as much as we can for conservation’s sake but it also makes good financial sense especially for the long run. Many people who replace their HVAC furnaces sometimes do not give due consideration to efficiencies of the furnace the purchase. They often look at the HVAC salesman and balk when they see the higher price for the higher efficiency furnace.

Then a few years later whether it be market forces, an act of God, or a refinery accident and the price skyrockets. Many often regret not getting the higher efficiency furnace. Especially after getting that big gas bill. A bill that would have been a lot less if they had purchased the higher efficiency model. Even without the volatile cost of fuels the consumer would have always been better financially purchasing the more efficient furnace. On a month to month basis these HVAC furnaces will pay for themselves fairly quickly.

Two Heat Exchangers | High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

Janitrol Gas Furnace Reviews | Consumer RatingsAn HVAC condensing gas furnace has two heat exchangers and makes use of so much of the heat produced that it actually condenses the moisture out of the gases. Where does this moisture come from? Natural gas has approximately 5 percent moisture content. Additionally, if installed properly, the HVAC condensing gas furnace will pull all the combustion air it needs from outside. The bonus to this is that you don’t have to worry about an exhaust fan(s) pulling a negative pressure in your home. That is while the furnace is running. This is uncommon but not unheard of. Furthermore, if you see water leaking from your furnace, you likely have a clogged drain. Your furnace, when operating in heat mode, needs a clear and unobstructed drain for the moisture from the condensed gases.

Fire consumes air and non-condensing furnaces usually use the air from inside the dwelling for this combustion air. There are codes concerning combustion air but over time things change and people renovate. With the HVAC condensing gas furnace it has a dedicated pipe. Typically, this pipe is PVC. It channels the air directly from the outside (using a forced or induced draft fan). A condensing gas furnace does not need a flue or chimney to vent its gases.

The Reason for PVC Flue Venting

It typically uses PVC pipe for the flue. The PVC is necessary because the combustion gases would have a highly corrosive effect on the typical metal flue. The exception is stainless steel. Some heat exchangers are constructed using stainless steel. Combustion gases have caustic effects on the masonry inside of chimneys which is why PVC is used for the vent. Somewhere near this PVC vent pipe, there should be a drain to drain off the condensed moisture.

Use our handy calculator to see how many BTU's your natural gas appliances are producing:

Condensing Furnaces | Forced Draft | High Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

Usually these drains drain off into the same drain that condensation from the evaporator coils drain to. The combustion gases have so much of the heat zapped from it that it is necessary force these gases out. They are forced out through the PVC flue pipe. These gases simply don’t have enough heat left in them to help them rise out of the flue. The same fan that pulled the combustion air from the outside pushes the combustion gases out. The noxious combustion gases are forced out through the PVC flue pipe. The HVAC condensing gas furnace is most likely your best option for heating efficiency. That is out of the furnaces that are currently available. Aside from an HVAC geothermal heat pump.

Other Heating Applications Using This Technology | High Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

Additionally, some HVAC boiler manufacturers and HVAC oil furnace manufacturers have adopted this technology for use in the designs of their equipment. You will see these HVAC furnaces and boilers advertised as 90 plus or 95 plus. That means that 90 percent plus of the heat they produce is actually delivered into the dwelling. Amazing when you compare these furnaces to furnaces from the 80′s and early 90′s. These furnaces had average efficiency rates around 60%.

Staging and Modulation | High Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

Over the last decade (2000’s) furnace manufacturers have been developing 2-stage and modulating gas furnaces. A two-stage gas furnace and a modulating gas furnace runs based on demand. The modulating furnace has several stages. It modulates from 40%~ to 100% depending on load factors while the two-stage gas furnace only has two stages. 40%~ to 100% depending on the manufacturer. On really cold days the furnace will run at 100% to satisfied high demand. However, on mild days it will run at a lower rate for the lesser demand. These gas furnaces use all the electronic ignition features mentioned above plus additional controls to facilitate the staging.

Additionally,to learn more about gas furnaces and HVAC use this resource.

High Performance HVAC

High-Efficiency Electronic Ignition Gas Furnaces

To learn more about heating systems and HVAC use this resource.

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