Are you tired of constantly running out of hot water or dealing with a noisy and inefficient hot water system […]
The pilot light in the hot water heater is a small flame that is continuously burning and serves as an ignition source for the main burner when hot water is needed.
The pilot light serves more importantly as a safety feature that prevents the release of gas into the air when the hot water heater is not in use. It also provides a rapid and convenient way to start the heating process without having to wait for the ignitor to warm up and start the main burner.
The primary function of the heater’s pilot light is to maintain a constant water temperature in the tank by allowing the burner to turn on and off. When the pilot light is faulty, the thermocouple closes the burner’s gas supply valve trapping the gas inside
You can easily detect a faulty pilot light if it does l not light or if it lights up but turns off quickly or it fluctuates, and normally your instant reaction is to call a handyman to fix it. However, this guide will walk you through the problems and repair procedures in detail, as it often requires simple steps that will only take a few minutes.
The first thing you have to check is whether your water heater has a manual or automatic igniter by checking the manufacturer user guide or manual and going through the following steps:
Use your sense of smell to ensure that there is no gas leak by simply sniffing to detect natural gas. Although natural gas is usually odorless, igniting a flame in the proximity of a gas leak can be very dangerous to you and your home. That is why most utility companies add a compound called mercaptan which adds a foul scent to their natural gas, giving it a pungent smell that makes it hard to miss.
Additionally, you can listen for hissing sounds coming from the pipes, valves and connections. If there is a gas leak, call your gas company or repair man and don’t attempt to relight the pilot light. If there are no gas leaks, you are ready to proceed.
To confirm whether the pilot light is out, you carry out a simple confirmation test, starting by locating the pilot light in the water heater which is usually located at the base unit of most water heaters, just below the gas control valve.
Next, open the access panel or door of the burner chamber to locate the pilot light tube which normally has a steady blue flame, and if you don’t see the flame then the light is out.
The next thing you should do is turn off the gas supply via the gas regulator valve which is usually located outside your water heater unit where the main gas pipe enters the heater.
Next, proceed to the gas control valve located near the access cover and that has an on/off/pilot dial and a thermostat dial. If you can’t find it, consult the documentation manual for your specific water heater model. Turn the gas control valve to the “Off” position and wait for 5 minutes to remove any accumulated gas, then set the thermostat dial at its lowest setting.
Turn the gas control valve to the “Pilot” position, inspect the burner area with a flashlight and clean out any dust or debris before proceeding to light the pilot.
Press down on the control knob in the “pilot” position, on some models, you need to press a separate red button labeled “pilot” which controls the gas to the pilot light. For manually ignited water heaters, and while the control knob is pressed down , hold the flame from your match or lighter under the pilot light and you should see a steady flame once the pilot light is lit.
For automatically ignited water heaters, repeatedly push the striker knob (which is typically black or red depending on the manufacturer) for about 90 seconds, until the pilot is lit.
If the pilot fails to ignite, check the gas supply to the heater and make sure all supply valves are open. If the gas supply is good and the pilot light is still failing to reignite , then the pilot light’s orifice or gas jet might be plugged.
The orifice is the small tip at the end of the pilot light’s gas supply tube, which when blocked, restricts gas from flowing. To solve this issue, use a small wrench to remove the orifice and inspect the tip, then remove any obstructions by blowing through it or tapping gently against a hard surface. Once the orifice is clean and clear, attempt reigniting the pilot light.
Remove the flame from the pilot light as soon as it ignites but continue holding the knob down for a minute to bleed out accumulated air from the line and allow the thermocouple sensor to heat up then release the knob. This sensor can detect if your pilot light goes out and will turn your water heater off if it gets too cold.
If the pilot light goes out again, check the fittings between the thermocouple (a small metal rod located directly above the pilot light) and the gas control valve. Loose fittings at the control valve can cause the thermocouple to operate improperly. If the fittings are tight and the problem persists, the thermocouple is faulty and requires replacement.
Using the control knob, set your water heater to your desired temperature and securely replace the access cover.
If your pilot light was out due to a one-time issue it should stay lit and you should continue to receive a steady flow of hot water, however, if the pilot light keeps going out, in that case your water heater needs professional maintenance or repair either from your handyman or directly from the manufacturer, depending on their repair policy.
Dealing with natural gas can be very dangerous, but following these simple steps allows you to safely reignite your pilot light whenever needed.