Those with a propane gas furnace who suddenly discover their home is cold should of course check to make sure the propane hasn’t run out before considering the possibility of a more serious furnace problem. If the propane tank isn’t empty, more than likely the furnace ignitor has gone bad. This is the most common problem with a propane gas furnace. Propane gas doesn’t burn as clean as natural gas, and propane gas is very hard on a gas furnace ignitor. A propane gas furnace ignitor requires replacement much sooner than a natural gas
furnace ignitor. This can become quite expensive if a homeowner doesn’t learn how to replace the ignitor. Replacing a propane gas furnace ignitor is easy, and you don’t have to be a trained furnace repair person to do this simple job.
A Costly Repair
I have a propane gas furnace, and before figuring out I could replace the ignitor myself, I hired a propane furnace repair company on three separate occasions. The last time I hired someone to replace the propane gas furnace ignitor I paid a grand total of $144.00. I was unhappy I had to pay for this repair since I had the propane gas furnace ignitor replaced just 13 months prior.
Our Throwaway Society
The first propane gas furnace ignitor I paid someone else to install came with a 12 month warranty. The company that makes this particular propane gas furnace ignitor must have the manufacturing of this product down to a science. Ironically the parts went bad on three separate occasions almost 13 months apart – just one month after the warranty ran out. In our throwaway society this isn’t surprising. Products could be made to last much longer, but manufacturers want consumers to replace items again and again. If products and parts lasted indefinitely, manufacturers wouldn’t be earning the large-scale profits they typically earn.
Costly Furnace Repair Companies
Propane furnace repair companies don’t want an item such as a propane gas furnace ignitor to last either. These simple but costly repairs keep them in business. Not only do propane furnace repair companies earn profits from labor charges, they greatly inflate the price of those parts. Every time a homeowner discovers a broken furnace or other vital component of a home in need of repair, that homeowner really doesn’t have any other choice but to call out a professional to repair it – unless the homeowner learns to do the repairs themselves.
After having to pay someone to replace my propane gas furnace ignitor three times, I decided enough was enough. As soon as I woke up to a cold house for the third time in a little over three years, I realized it was more than likely the propane gas furnace ignitor once again. After hearing the furnace trying to ignite the pilot light to no avail, I knew for sure it was the propane gas furnace ignitor. I found the receipt from the last repair. What a surprise. It was 13 months ago once again – almost a month past the warranty. I was not going to pay someone a ridiculous price for someone to come out and replace this obviously disposable part once again.
Locating and Checking Your Propane Gas Furnace Ignitor
Once you realize your propane gas furnace is unsuccessfully attempting to light, before removing the furnace panel, turn the thermostat all the way down, and disconnect the electrical connection to the furnace. There is typically a switch on the furnace, but it is safest to also turn off the electricity at the electrical panel or fuse box. In addition, turn the gas knob to the off position. You will see the knob after removing the access panel on the furnace.
The ignitor is typically attached to the furnace by one screw and a metal bracket. The ignitor is positioned in front of the area that receives the gas required to light the flame. The ignitor looks kind of like a sparkling dark gray file. A propane gas furnace ignitor is typically attached to a white ceramic base that has two wires attached to it. These wires plug into an attachment that connects the propane gas ignitor to an electrical connection.
Without touching or removing the propane gas furnace ignitor, examine it carefully. Use a flashlight if necessary, and check for small cracks and areas that appear lighter in color. It’s very important not to touch gray area of the ignitor. If the end of the ignitor is touched, the oils in the skin will ruin the ignitor and cause it not to work if there was in fact nothing wrong with it to begin with. If the ignitor appears coated with a white or light colored film, or if it has developed a crack, it will need to be replaced. The ignitor won’t necessarily look damaged, but any dirt or grime will cause it not to work, and it will require replacement.
Removing the Old Propane Gas Furnace Ignitor
After turning off the electricity to the furnace and the electrical box, use a small screwdriver to remove the bracket holding the ignitor in place. Set the parts aside, and take careful note of their location and position so the ignitor will be easy to replace after obtaining a new one. Unplug the part from the furnace, and note the model number of the part. The model number will be necessary in order to locate a new ignitor.
Locating a New Propane Gas Furnace Ignitor
Don’t make the mistake of calling a furnace repair company when attempting to locate a new propane gas furnace ignitor. Furnace repair companies buy parts at wholesale prices, and they resell them at a greatly inflated cost. Look in your local yellow pages and find a heating and cooling supply store. You will more than likely find the lowest price for a new propane gas furnace ignitor at a supply store. This is where furnace repair companies buy their parts and supplies, so avoid the middleman and buy them yourself directly from the source.
The supply store can check for the correct ignitor by looking up the brand and model number of the part. It may be necessary to take the part to the store in order to ensure it is compatible if it isn’t the same brand. Different brands have different model numbers, but they might still be compatible. A furnace supply store employee can check a chart for compatibility.
Installing a New Propane Gas Furnace Ignitor
The plugin of the new ignitor must be the same as the old plugin. If it isn’t the same, it will be necessary to cut the wires on the old part and splice the old plugin with the wires of the new part. If necessary, simply cut the wires of the old plugin from the old part approximately 2 inches from the plugin. Cut the wires of the new part a couple of inches from the end of the incompatible plugin. Strip any material and/or plastic coating from the ends of all four wire ends, and reconnect the wires by twisting them together with wire caps. The propane gas ignitor should now be equipt with a compatible plugin.
Remember, do not touch the new ignitor below the ceramic base when handling. If you do, chances are it will not work. Start by positioning the ceramic base over the bracket, and reattach it to the furnace. Be careful not to over tighten the screw which could result in cracking the base. Plug in the part, place the panel back on the furnace, and flip the electrical switch on the furnace to the on position. Turn on the electricity at the electrical panel, turn the gas knob to the on position, and turn up the thermostat to the desired level. The furnace should light in less than 20 seconds.
Replacing the propane gas furnace ignitor myself saved approximately $126.00. The most time-consuming part of the process was driving to the furnace supply store for the new propane gas furnace ignitor. The actual process of replacing the ignitor took only a matter of minutes. It was extremely easy, and I was very proud of myself for taking the initiative to replace the propane gas furnace ignitor myself.
Those with a propane gas furnace should consider keeping an extra ignitor or two on hand. Unfortunately it’s usually the coldest day of the year when the propane gas ignitor decides to quit working, so having an extra one on hand is a smart way to help ensure the heat will be on all winter long.