Ignitor Life Expectancy and Replacement Cost?

ak0402January 27, 2009

I have a service contract with a very reputable local HVAC company. Two years ago, they replaced my ignitor, which was still working, but was about to go bad. Then a couple of days ago the heat went out which I noticed at about midnight. That night it was -5 degrees outside, and so I called the emergency number of my HVAC company. They were wonderful about coming to my house quite quickly in the middle of the night. The repair guy said my ignitor was bad, showed it to me where it looked damaged, and replaced it. The furnace is now working perfectly.

I have two issues:

(1) shouldn't an ignitor last longer than 2 years? I thought 4-6 was typical. And if so, does the company owe me some kind of credit for the amount I paid for this second replacement?

(2) when the ignitor was replaced 2 years ago, the company charged me $40 for the part. When they replaced it a couple of days ago, they charged me $105. The repair guy showed me his pricing sheet which was divided between a price for people under service contract and a price for non-customers. So the price listed for an ignitor for current customers under contract was indeed $105. Why has the price almost tripled in 2 years? And should I object to the company about that price too, when I call about my point (1) above?

Do I have a leg to stand on for either of these two issues? TIA.

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You don't say what type of fuel you use.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 4:47PM
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Ignitor life varies but should do better than 2 years unless your furnace is in a "dirty" environment like near laundry stuff or other dusty area. Also depends upon whether the genuine manufacturers ignitor was used or not.

As for pricing, we're pretty cheap if we change one on a clean. Lots more if we have to come out on a "no heat" call to do it.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 5:49PM
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I have gas heat. The furnace is in a utility closet so is not exposed to a lot of dust, but there is some dust that would be found in any house. Also, I am very careful about replacing the filter very frequently. So, do I have a leg to stand on in asking for some credit back? I have been a good customer of this company for 5 years.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 9:09PM
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I hate to say it, but most likely they will not refund the money for an ignitor replaced 2 years ago. Yes, that ignitor should last longer than two years, but there are a few factors that could cause this problem, dirty burners, too much gas pressure, manufacturer defect, etc.
I know when we change an ignitor in our flat rate book, it is $110 for the labor and the part. If you are a service contract customer, it is $99. Our price has been that price for about 2 years now. It sounds like your HVAC company changed it out on a Service Contract visit, plus they might have gone from a time and material rate to flat rate billing in the past two years.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 8:00AM
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You can buy igniters on the net and at some stores like appliance dealers.

They aren't hard to put in.

Got a dog? Dog hair that lands across an igniter or other debris when the igniter is hot and glowing can cause a crack to develop.

Too bad the tech didn't put the 'about to go bad' igniter in a box for a spare, just in case. It was yours not theirs. About to go bad? Did he ohm it? Did he show you a white spot (sometimes normal-sometimes indicative of a weak spot).

You are at the mercy of contractors pricing if you can't DIY.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 8:06AM
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From you AKA sounds like your in the Chicago area. I'm in the south suburbs. A lesson learned by me:
I had a new American Standard furnace put in and the "hot surface ignitor" would go out a least once a year (probably on the coldest day). I had the same company that installed the furnace then service it until one time the furnace went out and "a friend of a friend" who is a furnace repairman looked at the ignitor and told me the ignitor was substandard and no longer used as a replacement part. Its been years now since that last replacement with no more problems. Also when replacing an ignitor it is required that the installer not touch the ignitor with his bare skin as this will cause the ignitor to burn out sooner.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 8:23PM
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Thanks everyone. I've already looked around on the 'net and seen the Hot Surface Ignitor for my Carrier furnace for around $30-35. I am not saying that the HVAC service company doesn't deserve some markup - they have to make a living too - but 300% seems excessive. I am wondering though that if I buy on my own a spare ignitor for next time, and I whip it out when the repairman comes, that he'll refuse to install it. Likely say something about how he "can't guarantee a part he hasn't provided" or something like that. Do you think that is likely? Unfortunately, I am not that handy, and am reluctant about replacing it (next time) myself.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 10:59PM
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Just to follow up, I spoke with the supervisor of the company. He was very pleasant on the phone, acknowledged that I was a long-time customer. He gave me a $50 credit. Fair enough. Times are hard; they need to make a profit; they came out quickly in the middle of the night (on a weekend) when it was -5 outside. I am satisfied.

I will, however, be buying an ignitor on my own as a spare. As I mentioned in my earlier message, the price I've seen is about $30-35. I am concerned though, that the company won't install it if I provide it. I am not handy, so don't think I can replace it myself. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there, unless you guys have some further advice.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:19PM
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ak chicago, Can you cut two wires and strip back the white insulation a bit and then twist on the ceramic wire nuts that come with a new ignitor? Usually they are mounted with one or two screws. Just make sure the ignitor is the same (model # on the old ignitor) or the reference book should show what # you need. Or, your new ignitor may just plug into the old jack. Then you only have to mount it.

Buy one now and replace it when you don't need the furnace that way if you need help you won't freeze waiting for it.

I know HVAC contractors will puke at this advice but 300% markups are sending people to the web to find parts. And, why shouldn't a homeowner have a back up plan?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 5:29AM
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Purchase the 'exact' replacement and have it on hand,
even if you can't install it. The next time it goes,
(in the middle of a sub-zero night), the repair
guy might not have the correct ignitor on his truck,
in which case you can say: "TA-DAA".

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 9:30AM
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You don't mention the furnace brand or age.
Many premature and short lived hot surface igniter's (HSI's) failed because manufacturers had them in the burner flame for flame sensing. This caused undue stress due to excessive heat and they failed. Many later came out with retrofit kits that slid the igniter over to offset it from the burner and a flame sensor rod was installed over the last burner and tied into circuit.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 10:49AM
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zl700 - It's a Carrier 395CAV, circa 1992. Yes, I know it's old, but it is working well now. I am suffering in this economy, and I absolutely cannot afford to replace the entire furnace. When the repairman replaced the ignitor, he also did a courtesy check of the housing, blower wheel, etc., basically an entire once-over, which was not part of the emergency call, but he was being nice. Everything checked out in working order.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 1:51PM
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I believe the CAV had a seperate flame sensor, make sure it is clean and has good connections. If memory serves me, they had circuit board problems (United Technologies)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 7:49PM
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