There's a good chance you'll be using your furnace less and less as colder winter temperatures give way to warmer and sunnier summertime weather. If your home's furnace still relies on a pilot light for ignition, then you're probably wondering whether you should keep your pilot light on throughout the summer or extinguish it to save gas and money. The following explains some of the benefits of turning off your pilot light, along with the drawbacks and other concerns associated with such an action.
You Can Turn On the Savings by Turning Off Your Pilot Light
As homeowner Tom Murphy found out when investigating his old condominium's natural gas usage, the small flame in your furnace could cost you plenty of money if it's left to burn year-round. Murphy discovered that his pilot light consumed approximately 7.3 therms to operate each month, to the tune of $10 per month. By shutting off his furnace's pilot light, he was able to cut his summertime natural gas usage in half, resulting in substantial savings on his utility costs.
A typical pilot light consumes anywhere from 5 to 12 therms of natural gas per month, depending on how well the pilot light is adjusted. Turning your pilot light off and leaving it off throughout the summer and early fall months could help significantly reduce your natural gas bill for the year.
Don't forget that a constantly lit pilot light can also add a significant amount of heat to your house—up to 40,000 BTUs of additional heat per day, in some cases. With your pilot light off, your air conditioner won't have to struggle against the additional heat load created by an unnecessary flame. In turn, this can help reduce your monthly energy costs even further.
Turning Off Your Pilot Light Could Also Enhance Safety
Increased safety is yet another reason why you should consider turning your pilot light off for the summer. It's not unusual to see homeowners worry about an otherwise dormant furnace suddenly becoming a fire hazard due to stray debris coming into contact with the pilot light. Shutting off the pilot light can offer additional peace of mind to those who are concerned about the safety of their hibernating furnace.
A lit pilot light can also continue to generate soot and debris simply through the fuel-burning process. With the pilot light and its associated gas supply turned off, you won't have to worry about a dormant pilot light collecting unwanted debris. This keeps your pilot orifice cleaner for much longer in addition to other maintenance tasks.
"No Pilot Light" Could Mean "No Instant Heat"
There's a noticeable downside to turning off your pilot light, however. If your location experiences occasional cold snaps and you need immediate warmth in your home right away, you won't be able to get that if your pilot light is turned off. If you want to use your furnace, then you'll have to go through the time-consuming and sometimes complicated process of reigniting your pilot light before firing up your furnace.
On the other hand, you can mitigate this relative lack of instant heat by using portable electric heaters. There may be a slight electricity consumption penalty associated with using electric heaters, but most of the modern units currently on sale in the U.S. are specifically designed to be as energy efficient as possible without sacrificing performance and overall comfort.
If you decide to turn off your pilot light, you'll also want to make sure the pilot light's gas supply is also turned off. Otherwise, you could end up with a slow yet steady gas leak that could potentially endanger those inside your home and possibly outside of it.