Have you ever stepped into the shower only to be greeted by cold water? If your answer is yes, don’t panic. It could be as simple as the gas water heater pilot light might have gone out. It’s a common issue, and fixing it is easier than you might think. In this simple guide, Fetch-A-Tech Plumbing, Heating & Air will show you how to light a water heater pilot and explain what causes a pilot light to go out in the first place.
What is a Water Heater Pilot Light?
Before we get into the steps of lighting the pilot, let’s understand what it is. A water heater pilot light is a small, continuously burning flame that ignites the gas burner when hot water is needed. It’s like the spark that starts your car’s engine – without it, your water heater won’t work.
How to Tell If a Pilot Light is Out
The first step in solving the problem is to check if your pilot light is indeed out. Here’s how you can tell:
- No Hot Water: The most obvious sign is that your water isn’t getting hot. If you turn on the hot water tap and only get cold water, it’s a strong indicator that the pilot light is out.
- Examine the Pilot Light Window: Most gas water heaters have a small window where you can see the pilot flame. If you look through this window and see no flame, your pilot light is out.
- Check the Status Light: Some newer water heaters come with a status light that blinks a specific code to indicate the pilot’s status. Consult your water heater’s manual to decode these signals.
What Causes the Pilot Light to Go Out?
Understanding the reasons behind a pilot light going out can help you prevent it from happening again. Here are some common causes:
- Drafts: Strong drafts of air near the water heater can blow out the pilot flame. Make sure the area around your water heater is well-ventilated but not drafty.
- Thermocouple Issues: The thermocouple is a safety device that senses if the pilot light is on. If it malfunctions, it may shut off the gas supply to the pilot, causing it to go out.
- Dirty Pilot Orifice: Over time, dust and dirt can accumulate in the pilot orifice, obstructing the flow of gas and extinguishing the flame.
- Gas Supply Problems: Sometimes, issues with the gas supply can cause the pilot light to go out. Make sure the gas valve is fully open and that there are no gas leaks.
- Faulty Pilot Control Valve: If the pilot control valve is faulty, it may not maintain a steady flame, leading to frequent pilot light outs.
Now that you know how to identify a pilot light problem and its possible causes, let’s talk about how to light a water heater pilot.
Igniting a Water Heater Pilot
Important Safety Note: Before attempting to relight the pilot, turn off the gas supply to your water heater and wait for at least five minutes to allow any accumulated gas to dissipate. Additionally, if you smell gas or suspect a gas leak, do not attempt to light the pilot – contact the professionals at Fetch-A-Tech immediately.
If the situation is safely under control, do the following to light the pilot:
- Locate the Control Knob: Open the access panel on your water heater to find the control knob. This knob should have settings like “Pilot,” “Off,” and “On.”
- Set the Knob to “Pilot”: Find the word “Pilot” on the knob and turn it to this position. This allows you to access the pilot light area.
- Press and Hold the Knob: While holding the control knob in the “Pilot” position, locate the pilot light assembly. You’ll typically find it near the bottom of the water heater. Keep the knob pressed in.
- Ignite the Pilot Light: A long fireplace match or a grill lighter is the perfect tool to use to safely light the pilot burner. Place the flame close to the pilot assembly and wait for the flame to catch.
- Keep Holding the Knob: Even after the pilot flame ignites, continue holding the control knob for approximately 30 seconds. This allows the thermocouple to heat up and signal to the control valve that it’s safe to release gas.
- Release the Knob: Slowly release the control knob. If the pilot light stays lit, you’ve successfully relit it. If it goes out, repeat the process, ensuring that you hold the knob long enough.
- Set the Knob to “On”: When you are sure the pilot light is stable, turn the control knob to the “On” position. This will reignite the main burner, and you should have hot water again.
- Close the Access Panel: Don’t forget to securely close the access panel on your water heater.
Having your gas water heater pilot light go out can be inconvenient, but with this simple guide, you can safely relight it yourself. Remember to prioritize safety, and if you ever feel unsure or smell gas, it’s best to seek professional help. Fetch-A-Tech Plumbing, Heating & Air is always available to take your call.