Electronic Ignition For Cooking Equipment

For many years, the standard method of ignition for gas cooking equipment and other gas appliances has been the standing, or constantly burning, pilot flame. While the standing pilot does serve its primary purpose--fast, safe, reliable ignition of the appliance-it is constantly consuming fuel regardless of whether the appliance is operating. With the growing concern over energy costs has come the development of a new, equally reliable but more efficient type of ignition system: the electronic or automatic-spark ignition.

How It Works

The conventional standing pilot ignitor system includes a very small diameter pilot gas supply line, the pilot light mounted close to the main burner and a pilot flame sensor that controls the gas burner. This flame sensor, which can be either electronic or bimetallic, prevents the flow of gas to the main burner if there is no pilot flame to provide immediate ignition. This is a safety feature to prevent a dangerous build-up of unignited gas. When the pilot is lit, the flame sensor senses the heat and, when the appliance is turned on, signals the main gas valve to open, allowing gas to flow to the main burner. The gas is then quickly and safely ignited by the pilot flame.

An electronic or automatic ignition system incorporates all of the safety features of the standing pilot, but without a constantly burning flame. When the appliance is turned on, a small electronic spark ignites the pilot flame. When the pilot flame is ignited, its heat is sensed by the flame sensor and a signal is sent to the main gas valve, indicating that it is safe to allow the flow of gas to the burner where it will be immediately ignited. As soon as ignition of the main burner has occurred, the pilot is extinguished until next time it is needed.


Fuel efficiency - On some appliances, a standing pilot flame can consume up to 700 BTUs per hour. Most new high-efficiency cooking equipment incorporates electronic ignition, along with other improvements like new burner designs and venting modifications.

Re-lighting of pilots is eliminated - Standing pilot flames can be blown out by breezes from a door being opened, for example. In some cases, the pilot may be difficult to reach and relight.

Slight decrease in kitchen heat - Though a single pilot has an almost insignificant effect on the kitchen heat load, eliminating several pilots may have a discernible effect.

A Note of Caution: Check with your equipment manufacturer to see if electronic ignition is recommended for your facility. If your clean-up methods include a significant amount of water or steam, your electronic ignition components could fail prematurely because of splashes that might cause short circuits. Many manufacturers are now sealing their ignition modules with a silicone- type material to eliminate this problem.