How to Light a Hot Water Heater | How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater

How to Light a Water Heater Pilot

plumber turning dial on water heater

Almost nothing is worse than a cold shower, and if your hot water heater has a pilot that's gone out, that means it won't be producing any hot water. If you don't know how to light a pilot light on a water heater, it's an easy thing to do, and most people can get the job done. You do want to be careful because if you do have a broken flame sensor, gas can accidentally be released into the home.

Lighting a Gas Water Heater in 7 Steps

Keeping in mind that each water heater is unique and has instructions that you should reference, here we have general instructions on how to light a gas water heater. Remember, you can get all your water heater parts here at PlumbersStock.

  1. Turn off gas valve - for safety, locate the gas shut-off valve and set it off. Now go have a sandwich because you need to wait about 5 minutes before proceeding.
  2. Access the pilot light - some tanks will have an open gap, likely beneath the gas valve, while other units have a panel with a door that needs to be opened.
  3. Locate the burner - using a flashlight, find the burner (which will have gas tubes leading to it.
  4. Prepare to turn on pilot mode - there is either a gas knob or button that will allow you to initiate pilot mode, which gives you enough flow of gas to start the pilot. You'll need to initiate it when you're ready for step 5.
  5. Simultaneously light the pilot - while initiating pilot mode, light the pilot. You may have to do this manually with a hand lighter, but many models have an ignition button that will light the burner.
  6. Continue to hold gas button/knob in pilot mode - do this for a full minute, then after releasing, make sure the flame is still lit on the burner. 
  7. water heater burner flame
  8. Turn on the gas valve - you should hear the water heater makes a very satisfying "whoosh" sound that occurs when the main burner ignites.

If your water heater did have an access panel, replace the cover, and you're all done. If you'd like to check out a helpful video tutorial, try this youtube entry by ehowhome.

Why Do Pilot Lights Go Out?

It's not an uncommon or unanticipated occurrence. It can happen simply because gas pressure has changed. If you do have repeated issues with the pilot light, it's probably one of two things:

  1. You may have a problem with the thermocouple. In layman's terms, a thermocouple is a flame sensor. If your thermocouple is dirty, bent, or broken, it will not be able to sense the flame. If it's bent, then it's possible that you can bend it back to where it's supposed to be so it can sense the flame. If it's dirty, you can clean it. If it's broken, then you need to replace it. Follow this tutorial and learn how to replace the thermocouple.
  2. You may have a grounded heating element. Sometimes the pilot goes out because the element won't stop heating, and the thermocouple is correctly shutting the water heater down. Learn how to test a heating element.

Water Heaters at PlumbersStock

We have everything you need to get your water heater up and running like new, so if you have any questions about your project or parts and water heater accessories, please contact us. Have you considered an on-demand water heater?

Related resources:
How to Reset a Water Heater
How to Turn Off a Water Heater
How to Drain a Water Heater
How to Turn on Water Heater
How to Turn Up Water Heater
What Temperature Should Water Heater Be?

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