How to Light Your Water Heater Pilot

Things around the home fail from time to time. Bulbs and batteries need replacing and drainpipes need cleaning. But what about when your water gets cold?

If you have a gas water heater with a flame driven pilot light, the fix can be as simple as re-lighting your water heater pilot.

While you certainly could call a plumber, for most homeowners, this is an easy-to-do DIY task you can complete on your own.

First, Check the Pilot

Before you start fixing things, you need to be sure that an unlit pilot light is an actual issue. Look at your water heater, near the bottom, for an access panel. Remove that to see if there is a small flame burning. If not, the pilot light has gone out, and you’ve found your problem.

Most newer models of water heaters don’t use a flame to ignite gas, instead using a sparker or a heating element to ignite the gas. If your water isn’t heating up, it’s possible this element has failed, requiring a call to Forrest Anderson right away.

Look for Leaks

Before you start adding flame to the fire, you want to ensure your water heater is leak free. If there’s gas leaking, you’ll end up with an explosion on your hands. Lighting your pilot isn’t important enough to risk your family, home, and life.

This is how you can complete a simple DIY test for leaks:

  1. Sniff around, high and low, near the water heater. While natural gas doesn’t smell like anything, the gas company will add a scent, so you’ll smell sulfur or rotten eggs.
  2. Listen for hissing sounds around the heater. It sounds like air leaking out of a tire: slow and steady.

Don’t take any chances. If you suspect your water heater has a gas leak, leave the area and call the gas company for your next steps.

Follow Instructions

Water heaters have affixed, printed labels on the outside.

If there are specific instructions you need to follow, they will be there. While many heaters are similar, you should always look at the detailed directions for your particular model.

Lower the Temperature

Before you start the relighting process, you want to make sure you’re not about to face a huge flame. Reduce the temperature control setting to its lowest temperature. Usually, you’ll find the control on the front of the box, outside of the heater.

Look for the Regulator Valve

Usually located near the temperature control, the regulator valve regulates gas flow to the pilot. Turn that valve to the off position. Once you’ve done that, wait 10 minutes to proceed so that any gas remaining in the line has an opportunity to clear.

Light the Pilot

The type of water heater you have will determine how you do this. Older units will need an external lighter, whereas newer versions have a pilot light igniter. If you need a lighter, then grab a long-handled one.

Now find the pilot, probably with the help of a flashlight (a second set of hands will come in handy here). Once you’ve determined where the pilot is, adjust the regulator valve to pilot and push down. Alternatively, you may see a red button to push to send gas to the pilot. If so, press and hold. This button starts the gas flowing, so it will catch when you add a flame.

Next, you’ll light the pilot. You’ll need another person to help: one to hold the button and one to light. If you have a self-igniting pilot, this step is a little easier. If not, have the person with the lighter get down and put the flame to the pilot. It should catch pretty quickly.

Hold down the gas valve for a full minute after igniting the pilot light. By doing so, you will eat up the sensor that turns off the pilot if not engaged.

Confirm the Light and Clean Up

After you let go of the pilot or gas valve, double check to be sure the pilot light remains lit. If it does, close all the access panels you opened. Turn the gas valve back to on and reset the temperature to your liking.

If you have challenges with lighting your water heater pilot, then contact the experts at Forrest Anderson. We are an approved contractor with Southwest Gas and can assist you in keeping your family safe and warm this winter.

Consider an Upgrade

If you have an old flame driven water heater, it’s likely you should consider an upgrade.

Modern water heater systems don’t use open flames to ignite the gas and are often more fuel efficient, heating your home and water for less money. You’ll also waste less water waiting for the cold water to get hot.

An investment in a new water heat can quickly pay for itself in gas, water, and electrical costs.

If you’re considering an upgrade, call your Forrest Anderson team today and we’ll help you get started.

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