While most modern gas water heaters and furnaces use electronic ignition to light the main burner, many still rely on a pilot light. A standing pilot ignition system features a small flame that remains lit 24/7. Then, when heat is needed, the pilot light ignites the gas.
Several things can make a pilot light go out, from a faulty thermocouple to a fluctuation in the gas main pressure to a simple breeze blowing past the flame. You might have purposely blown out the pilot light in summer to save energy, and now you need to relight it as part of your winter home maintenance routine.
Regardless of the reason, your gas water heater or furnace can’t turn on if the pilot light is out. Fortunately, relighting a pilot light is easy. All you need is a long-neck multipurpose lighter and a flashlight.
NOTE: Never relight the pilot if you smell gas. This indicates a leak and could cause an explosion if you light a match or lighter.
How to Determine if the Pilot Light is Out
If you turn on the hot water and it refuses to heat up, this is a sign that the water heater pilot light is out. If the furnace won’t kick on, even though the indoor temperature has fallen below the thermostat setting, this also indicates a problem with the pilot light.
To find out for sure, shine a flashlight under the furnace or water heater and look for the pilot light assembly. There should be a small gas regulator valve labeled “Pilot,” “Off,” and “On” with a little blue flame nearby. If you see the valve but no flame, this means the pilot light is out. If you have trouble locating the pilot light assembly, refer to the owner’s manual.
How to Relight a Pilot Light on a Gas Furnace or Water Heater
- Turn the gas regulator valve to the “Off” position. This stops the incoming flow of gas, but you should still wait about five minutes for the gas present in the system to dissipate.
- Locate the pilot burner near the gas valve and remove the cover if it has one.
- Turn the gas valve to the “Pilot” position, which resumes the flow of gas to the pilot opening. You may need to hold the gas valve in this position to keep it there.
- Some furnaces and water heaters have a red or black “Ignition” button on the top or side of the gas valve. If you see one, push it now to ignite the pilot. If it works, you’ll hear a click as the igniter sparks.
- If you don’t see an ignition button, you will need a lighter or match to relight the pilot. With the gas regulator valve in the “Pilot” position, light your multipurpose lighter and depress the reset button, if your furnace or water heater has one. With the button depressed, hold the lighter flame near the pilot opening.
- Continue holding the gas valve to the “Pilot” position for at least one minute after relighting the flame. This allows the thermocouple safety sensor to heat up properly.
- Slowly release the gas valve, and if the pilot remains lit, turn the valve to “On.” Listen for a muffled “whoomp” sound to indicate the gas heater has ignited.
- Stick around for a few minutes to ensure the furnace or water heater continues working. Look for sources of drafts that could have blown out the pilot light.
For more tips to get the best performance from your gas furnace or water heater this winter, please contact Aire Serv today.