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How to Re-Light a Water Heater Pilot Light

When you step into the shower, you know the water will get nice and hot within a few seconds. If an icy blast greets you instead, you know something’s amiss. The typical root cause behind this uncomfortable, harsh surprise is a water heater pilot light that’s gone out.

Don’t worry—relighting a water heater pilot doesn’t require specialized skills. Follow the quick, step-by-step strategies from the pros at Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing laid out below, and you’ll soon be back to delighting in those hot showers.

Steps to Light a Water Heater Pilot Light

First, read the user’s manual for your water heater model. Instructions differ from brand to brand, and you should get everything you need in the manual. If you don’t have the paper copy that came with the unit, look up the model number online to locate a digital version. Still, the following actions should apply for many gas water heaters:

  1. Look for the gas shut-off valve, which generally is clearly marked on the lower front part of your water heater. Turn this knob to the “Off” position and wait for five to 10 minutes to enable any lingering gas to dissipate.
  2. Open the pilot light access cover or door, which is normally positioned below the gas valve. On occasion, there isn’t a door; instead, you could possibly see the pilot light burner if you look in a small opening.
  3. Arm yourself with a flashlight or headlamp. Next, peer into the pilot light access and look for two small gas tubes leading to the burner. Monitor this area as you go ahead with lighting the water heater pilot.
  4. Switch the gas knob to “Pilot.” This motion lets the gas flow, preparing the pilot light for ignition. Some units have a specified red button for pilot mode, which you should press and hold.
  5. Light the pilot light while still holding down the gas knob or button. Your home’s water heater could have an igniter button, typically red or black. If not, you’ll need a long lighter to light the pilot physically.
  6. Push down the gas knob or button for about 30 to 60 seconds after the flame catches. Be certain the flame stays lit. 
  7. Turn the gas knob to “On.” You should hear a whump or whoosh sound as the main burner fires up and your water heater comes back to life.
  8. Place the door or access cover back on the unit. Give your water heater roughly 20 to 60 minutes to reheat the water, and you’ll be ready to enjoy that hot shower!

My Home’s Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit?

Needing to relight the pilot every now and then is usually not a major cause for concern. However, there could be a more serious underlying issue if the water heater pilot light won’t stay lit. Some common causes of this are:

  • Faulty thermocouple: The thermocouple is an automatic safety shut-off, stopping gas flow when the pilot light isn’t on. If this element is misaligned, dirty or damaged, you may face frequent pilot light issues. Move the thermocouple just a tiny bit and try lighting the pilot once more. If that doesn’t work, you could possibly need to clean it. And if that proves ineffective, it may be necessary to replace the thermocouple, a simple task for a trained technician.
  • Dirty pilot opening: If your pilot light has a yellow flame, it’s very likely due to a dirty pilot opening. This can restrict the thermocouple’s performance, leading to pilot light instability.
  • Weak or faulty gas regulator: Issues with this component may lead to an inadequate gas supply needed to maintain the pilot light. If multiple gas appliances in your residence have similar issues, check the regulator.
  • Breezy conditions: Water heaters commonly share a utility closet with the furnace, which requires fresh air to work properly. Strong drafts from this air intake can extinguish a water heater pilot light.

So, You Re-Lit Your Pilot Light? Let Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing Keep it That Way!

If you’re still having problems with your water heater pilot light in the U.S., contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing. Our ACE-certified technicians provide fast, effective solutions to all your comfort troubles. Everything we do is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not delighted with our efforts, we’ll work to fix it. We are leaders in innovation and customer engagement, with deep community involvement that shows our commitment to your comfort. Call 866-397-3787 today to reach the skilled staff at Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing. We’re ready to make a big difference in your life, one hot shower at a time. 

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