Should You Shut Off Your Furnace's Pilot Light During The Off-Season?

With the advent of the electronic igniter, the old-fashioned pilot light has fallen by the wayside as a feature on modern furnaces. If your furnace still relies on this tried-and-true method of ignition, you may be wondering if you should extinguish your pilot light during the warm weather months or let it burn all year long. The following offers a few detailed benefits and caveats of each choice.

Your Pilot Light Could Cost You Extra Money

A pilot light needs fuel to sustain itself, whether it's natural gas, propane or heating oil. As long as you keep your pilot light on, it's steadily burning through its fuel supply. Your pilot light might be small, but the relatively small amounts of fuel it uses can add up over the course of the season. Depending on the cost of fuel, you may end up with an extra $10 or $20 tacked on to your utility costs.

Your pilot light is also a source of heat - a rather inconvenient feature when your HVAC system is working to keep your home cool on a hot summer's day. As your air conditioner fights against the extra heat, it's also using more energy than usual. That unnecessary energy usage could translate into a few extra dollars on your monthly utility bill as long as your pilot light stays lit.

Your Pilot Light Could Save You Extra Furnace Maintenance

On the other hand, there are a few interesting benefits to leaving your pilot light on throughout the spring and summer. For starters, keeping the pilot light on prevents premature corrosion of the pilot tubes and other associated hardware. A lit pilot light provides just enough heat to keep corrosive moisture at bay. This can be especially helpful on unexpectedly humid days.

A lit pilot light also keeps spiders at bay. Most spiders prefer dark, undisturbed spaces to build their nests, including the confines of your furnace's burner. Some spiders are even attracted to hydrocarbons and mercaptan, the additive gas companies put in natural gas for leak detection. Spider webs and other debris can clog up the pilot tube and burners. Keeping your pilot light on throughout the off-season prevents spiders and other insects from taking up residence inside your furnace.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether you want to keep your pilot light on all spring and summer or leave it off to save money. If you do decide to turn it off, remember to follow your furnace manufacturer's instructions carefully when you relight your pilot light. Contact a service, like Gregory Heating and Air Conditioning, for more help.