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Any number of things can cause your furnace to malfunction. One of the more frustrating issues homeowners face is the furnace ignition lockout. This guide covers this topic in-depth by explaining what causes soft lockout on a furnace, the purpose of this feature, and how to fix it.
When you’re experiencing problems with your heating system, turn to the experts at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating. We provide reliable furnace repair in Richmond Hill and the surrounding areas. Our team is ready to help keep your home warm with our superior furnace services.
What Is Ignition Lockout?
Every gas furnace relies on its burner and flame to produce heat. Without these components, every other part of the unit won’t be able to do its job and provide your home with heat. Many of today’s modern furnaces come with safety sensors that monitor unsafe conditions.
If these sensors detect anything unusual, they will cause the entire furnace to shut off and remain off until you reset them. Professionals also refer to this as ignition lockout or soft lockout. Getting your furnace to ignite again requires resetting the controller, though most units have a limit as to how many times you can attempt to turn them back on.
Most furnaces will go into a hard lockout after three unsuccessful attempts. When this happens, you’ll need to manually reset the furnace with the help of a trusted HVAC technician.
What Causes Soft Lockout on a Furnace?
Soft lockouts happen when sensors detect something wrong or unsafe within your furnace. What specific issues will trigger these sensors? Below is a breakdown of the common causes of soft lockouts.
Defective Flame Sensors
The purpose of these sensors is to detect the flame that produces heat in your furnace. If you have faulty sensors, your system will shut down because it won’t know whether the flame is present or not. Even dirty sensors won’t be able to detect a flame and cause a soft lockout.
The igniter and flame sensors work in conjunction, which means both components can cause soft lockout on a furnace. Your furnace igniter should ideally activate the pilot light after a few seconds, but faulty equipment will cause a delay. When this happens, the flame sensors won’t detect any flames, and the furnace will enter lockout mode.
You can try igniting the pilot light with matches or a lighter to power your furnace. However, repeated issues with the igniter can trigger an ignition lockout.
Limit Switch Response
One of the safety features that many of today’s energy-efficient furnaces have is a limit switch. This measures both fuel pressure and the temperature of the heat exchanger. If either of these figures gets too high, the switch will trip and force the furnace into a soft lockout.
It’s also possible for the switch to trip because of a restricted airflow caused by dirty air filters. To find the exact cause of the lockout, you can check the furnace’s status code lights, which signal the source of the problem.
How To Resolve a Soft Lockout
Now that you know what causes soft lockout on a furnace, you’re probably wondering how to correct it. Experts recommend the following steps to get your furnace working again and fix any unsafe conditions that impact your heating unit.
Determine the Cause of the Lockout
When you know what triggers the lockout, it’s much easier to resolve the problem. Your furnace may have features like status code lights that will let you know the root of the ignition lockout. If you can pinpoint the underlying problem, you can move forward and adjust that issue.
Without knowing the cause of the lockout, you’ll likely have to check all of the likely components to fix the furnace. A certified HVAC technician can help you figure out the culprit and prevent further lockouts.
Replace Your Air Filter
Your HVAC system relies on its air filter to trap dust, dirt, and other allergens. The filter improves your indoor air quality by preventing contaminants from entering your vents; however, failing to change it regularly can cause issues with your furnace. Clogged filters can restrict airflow and cause the limit switch to trip, triggering a soft lockout.
Experts recommend replacing your air filter every three months to avoid major furnace malfunctions. In addition to making sure the air filter is clean, you should also clean your vent pipes, as dirt can accumulate here and cause a lockout. Fortunately, cleaning the pipes is as simple as taking your vacuum and sucking up all the dirt.
Clean Flame Sensors
Dirty flame sensors can cause a soft lockout on a furnace, but the solution is fairly easy. You can remove the sensor by carefully unscrewing it and rubbing it clean with a scouring pad. The tough pad will break down any soot or dirt encasing the sensor and restore its ability to detect the furnace’s flame.
Reset the Furnace
Finally, you can get out of lockout mode by resetting your furnace. Each model will vary, so it’s important to read your owner’s manual for resetting instructions. You can also contact the manufacturer directly for troubleshooting tips.
Contacting a professional HVAC company for this service ensures a correct reset without damaging other parts of the system. At this time, a technician can also inspect the furnace for other problems with its performance, including:
- Pilot light issues
- Loose electrical wiring
- Faulty gas valves
- Cracked heat exchanger
They can get your furnace out of soft lockout mode and identify other issues that may impact your home’s heating. Once a technician detects these problems, they can repair them before they escalate.
Why Your Furnace Needs Frequent Resetting
Say you go right for the reset button every time your furnace goes into lockout mode. Quickly resetting your gas or electric furnace is a simple way to produce heat again, but it may be a temporary fix. If you don’t address the problem causing the soft lockout on a furnace, you’ll need to reset the system frequently.
That’s why experts recommend covering all the bases before you reset the furnace. After all, resetting won’t do you any good if the unit can’t push any heat through a clogged air filter. Rather than constantly resetting your unit, take the time to figure out what is causing the soft lockout and tackle the problem.
If you have taken all the necessary precautions and your furnace is still failing to ignite or produce heat, there is likely a larger issue going on. Contact a furnace repair company to inspect the system. Some of the common problems that HVAC technicians need to repair include:
- Dirty or leaky air ducts
- Cracked heat exchangers
- Faulty thermostats or circuits
- Broken blower equipment
Depending on the severity of the issue as well as your furnace’s age, a technician may recommend replacing the unit instead of performing repairs. This way, you can start over with a newer, more efficient model that comes with a warranty. You won’t need to worry about any immediate issues impacting the furnace’s performance.
Whether you need to repair or replace your system, make sure you take care of it. You can avoid ignition lockouts and other common heating issues when you follow the best furnace maintenance practices.
Furnace Care and Maintenance Tips
When you understand what causes soft lockout on a furnace, you can take better care of your furnace and prevent it from happening. The following furnace maintenance tips can help keep your system running as it should:
- Regularly changing air filters
- Scheduling yearly tune-ups
- Cleaning vent pipes
Failing to change your air filters on a routine basis can cause them to clog with dirt and debris. The lack of airflow can not only make your home less comfortable but damage your heating system. You’ll also experience restricted airflow if your vents have blockages in them or objects in your home covering them.
Annual furnace tune-ups put you in the best position to avoid soft lockouts. Investing in a preventative service saves you money in the long run since technicians will repair any minor issues they find. They will clean and inspect all components of your furnace so it works efficiently the entire heating season.
Let Our HVAC Professionals Inspect Your Heating System
Now that you know what causes soft lockout on a furnace, you can mitigate common issues with your heating system. If you need additional help with your HVAC system, rely on the experts at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating. We can diagnose different types of furnace problems and correctly repair them.
Our specialists are happy to restore heat within your Georgia home. Schedule service with our trusted experts by calling (912) 513-3724. We can help keep your home warm and your furnace operational.