How To Relight the Pilot Light in Your Gas Hot Water Heater

When the hot water heater is your house goes out, tasks such as showering, laundry, washing dishes, and more come to a halt. If you have a gas-powered hot water heater, one cause for the shutdown may be that the pilot light went out. In many cases, once you relight the pilot, you should be back in business. In this article, we’ll show you how easy it is to do it yourself.

What does the pilot light do?

The pilot light is a small, continually burning flame that ignites the burner of your gas hot water heater. Simply put, if the pilot light goes out, the unit can’t warm up water. There are many reasons why a pilot light could extinguish, and it could be as simple as a temporary interruption or air bubble in the gas line.

Warning: if at any point of the process you smell gas, exit the area and call your energy provider as soon as possible.

Steps to relight the pilot light.

  1. Turn off the gas. Locate the gas shut-off valve on your hot water heater. The knob should be clearly labelled. Turn it to the “Off” setting, then wait 5-10 minutes to make sure all the gas has cleared.
  2. Find the pilot light access. Typically, this will be under the gas valve.
  3. Open the cover to the pilot (if one is present) and look inside the opening with the help of a flashlight to find the burner, along with two gas tubes.
  4. Go back to the gas valve and turn the knob to “Pilot.” By pushing the knob down, you will start the flow of gas to the pilot. Some hot water heaters have a separate pilot button – if so, push that down instead.
  5. While still holding down the knob or button, use an extended lighter to reach into the access and ignite the pilot.
  6. Once the pilot lights, keep holding the knob/button down for around one minute. After that time, slowly release the knob/button and check that there’s still a flame coming from the pilot.
  7. Go back to the gas valve and turn the knob to “On.” Usually you’ll hear a noise indicating the main burner is igniting.
  8. Replace the access cover and recheck the hot water after giving the heater time to restart.

What happens if the pilot light goes out again?

If the pilot refuses to ignite or if it keeps going out, it’s a sign that you may have another problem with your hot water heater. The most common problem we see is a bent, broken, or dirty thermocouple (also called a flame sensor). Remember, the average service life of a hot water heater is 12-15 years, so in some cases it might be a better investment to replace the unit than spend money repairing your old one.

If your water heater isn’t working so hot, give Reichelt Plumbing Inc. a call at (219) 322-4906. Our licensed plumbers will come out, take a look, and recommend the best way to get the hot water flowing in your home again.


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