How to Light a Hot Water Heater

If the shower you rely on to wake you up in the morning or calm you down at the end of the day doesn’t heat up, it can set you on the wrong path for the rest of the day. This is just one of the reasons why it’s a good idea to know how to troubleshoot your water heater, starting with the water heater pilot light.


How the hot water heater pilot light comes on

When a water heater pilot light goes out, it usually means that the flame has gone out due to a natural change in gas pressure. The main signs that the pilot flame has gone out are the ones that everyone fears. The water will stop boiling. It is important to know how to light the pilot flame on the water heater, not only to produce hot water, but also to ensure that gas does not accidentally flow into the house if the flame sensor is faulty.

It is important to follow the instructions on the water heater. Instructions vary by make and model. However, with most gas water heaters, the first step is to find the gas shut-off valve on the heater. It is usually clearly marked on the bottom front of the water heater. Turn the knob to the “off” position and wait five minutes for the gas to drain before following these steps


Steps to light hot water heater

  1. Open the pilot door/cap. It is located below the gas valve. On some water heaters, the pilot burner is not visible, only an open hole.
  2. Use a flashlight or headlamp to locate the burner inside. Two small gas hoses are connected to the burner. You should be able to see them as you work.
  3. Set the gas knob to “pilot” and turn it while holding it down. This will start the gas flow and you can light the fire. Some water heaters have a separate button for pilot, usually a red button that you must hold down.
  4. Light the pilot while pressing the gas. Some water heaters are equipped with a red or black pilot button, while others must be manually ignited with a long igniter.
  5. After ignition, hold down the shutoff valve or gas button for another minute. Then slowly release it and check if it is still lit.
  6. Open the gas tap and check if the main burner makes an ignition sound.
  7. Replace the cap and enjoy a hot shower.

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Pilot light failure

Pilot light failure is usually due to a natural change in gas pressure, but repeated failures indicate a problem with the water heater. Thermocouples are small copper wires and rods that detect flames and automatically shut off the gas when they determine the flame has gone out.

You may like to know how to drain a hot water heater.

Checking the pilot flame on a hot water heater

The pilot flame is located on the bottom of most standard water heaters. On some units, it may be necessary to remove the access panel. How can I tell if the pilot light is off? There are several ways to tell if there is a problem with your water heater’s pilot light. Some of the most common red flags to check are.

  • No hot water: one of the first and easiest clues as to why the shower was cold.
  • No flames: Flames may not be visible without first turning off other lights. If you can’t see the flame, it’s probably defective.
  • The gas control valve display will change color or an error message will appear.

The light of the hot water heater goes out constantly

What happens when the water heater indicator light does not come on? There are several reasons why the pilot light of a water heater goes out all the time. The main reasons are as follows

  • Natural changes in gas pressure.
  • Drafts due to poor ventilation at the water heater’s storage location or because the pilot light door/cover is not sealed properly.
  • Lack of fuel air: water heaters need air to do their job properly. Lack of air can cause the pilot light to fail and carbon monoxide to form (safety tip: it is advisable to have a CO detector nearby).
  • Bent or dirty thermocouple: If the pilot light goes out repeatedly, this could be the cause.
  • Dirty pilot hole or pilot tube: If the flame is yellow or orange, it may be burning dirt or other contaminants.
  • If the tube is blocked or damaged, gas will not be supplied to the burner for combustion.
  • Electrical problems.
  • Water flow problems – usually caused by fluctuating water temperatures or when the water does not reach the temperature set by the thermostat.
  • Water leaks (tankless) – a leak could indicate to the system that hot water is needed as it accumulates and cools. This constant need for hot water can lead to increased utility bills and water damage if the problem is caught early.

Check out best tankless gas water heaters.

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