Why Your Pilot Light Keeps Going Out & How To Fix [With Pictures]

That dang pilot light keeps going out!!! And it's ruining everything you had planned today! Nothing beats the feeling of a hot water shower. But when it doesn't happen...well, let's just say there are some things worse than taking a cold bath! The one thing everyone despises is no hot water. This can be extremely frustrating - not only for showering, but for all the other tasks you need hot water to perform. So much for all the cleaning, laundry, and hand washing that needs to be done!

But we're here to ease your mind, because you don’t have to put your day on hold due to an unreliable pilot light. Read more to find out what a pilot light is, why it’s so critical to your comfort, how to relight it, and how to protect your comfort going forward.

And if you discover that your water heater leaking water is the source of your water dilemma, check out our post on what to do when your water heater is leaking water

Fix Your Pilot Light

Now With A Pro!

What’s A Pilot Light?

The pilot light is a device that holds a continuously burning flame to ignite the burner. How? Well, when your appliance is turned on, gas is released from the main burner, and the pilot light flame ignites the gas to provide heat. As this heat warms the main burner, air or water inside your appliance is heated and then distributed as necessary throughout your home or business. 

Appliances With Pilot Lights

A pilot light is more likely to be found in water heaters or in older furnaces and boilers. You may also have a gas fireplace pilot light. We have a blog discussing how to light a gas fireplace. In recent years, pilot lights are often being replaced with hot surface igniters or spark igniters. 

water heater pilot light

water heater pilot light

The pilot flame ignites the gas to create warmth in your home or business. So if you have no hot water, inspect your water heater pilot light. And if you have no heat, check to see if your furnace or boiler pilot light has gone out.

pilot light in furnace

pilot light in furnace



Water Heater Pilot Light: Where Is It And What Does It Do?

At the base of your gas water heater, you will find an access panel directly beneath the thermostat. Inside the access panel lies the gas water heater pilot light. There will be a gas panel where you can see if the pilot flame is lit. The pilot light is a small flame used to ignite the gas burner on your water heater. This is necessary for warming the water that will be redistributed throughout your home. If you have no hot water and relighting your pilot light is unsuccessful, you will need a water heater repair

water heater pilot light keeps going out

***Warning! Do not remove the burner or pilot from inside your water heater. This picture was taken by a water heater professional for a demonstration on pilot lights.***

What Makes Your Water Heater Pilot Light  Go Out

A Faulty Thermocouple Is The Reason Your Pilot Light Keeps Going Out

bad thermocouple for water heater explains why pilot light keeps going out

Faulty thermocouple on water heater

A copper rod known as the "thermocouple" detects when your pilot light is burning. It is a safety feature that will shut down the heater's gas supply if your water heater pilot light goes out. Due to natural wear and tear, a thermocouple can get bent out of position, malfunction, become damaged, or coated in dirt or a build up of carbon. In any of these scenarios, the thermocouple will be unable to accurately sense the pilot light and consequently stop the heating operation.

Strong Breeze Can Blow Out Pilot Light

It is not unlikely for excessive wind or a nearby draft to extinguish your pilot light flame. If your pilot light has simply been blown out, you should have no problem retaining the flame when you relight it. 

Kink in the Flex Tube 

Flex tubes supply fuel to the gas controller. A kink or twist in the tubing will prevent the gas from flowing and cause pilot light problems. 

Filthy Pilot Light Opening Can Make Pilot Light Keep Going Out

If the mouth of the pilot is filled with gunk and dirt, it's nearly impossible for it to hold a flame. The flame it does hold will be weak, and easily extinguishable.  A dirty pilot orifice will prevent your pilot light from staying lit.

How Do I Re-Light My Gas Water Heater Pilot Light? 

Water heater pilot light not lit

Water heater pilot light not lit

Step 1: Thoroughly Read Gas Water Heater Manual

Find your water heater manual to get a better understanding of where each part of your water heater is located.

Step 2: Turn Down Thermostat

turn water heater thermostat down

Turn water heater thermostat down

Start by turning your water heater thermostat off or to the lowest setting.

Step 3: Turn OFF Gas

water heater gas valve

water heater gas valve

Locate the gas shut-off valve and turn it to "Off." The gas shut off valve is near the base of your water heater on the gas line. You must wait at least 5 minutes to ensure all the gas has dispersed before moving to the next step.

Step 4: After 5 Minutes, Turn The Gas Control Valve Setting On Your Water Heater To "Pilot"

Now turn the gas control valve located on the water heater to “Pilot”. The word "Pilot" should be in the middle.

Step 5: Hold Down the Reset Button

Hold water heater reset button down

Hold water heater reset button down

Next, hold the reset button down. This a button located to the left the gas control valve and is usually red. Hold this button down. For precaution, use the manual to identify each part.

Step 6: While Holding Down The Reset Button, Press The Igniter

hold down water heater igniter

Hold down water heater igniter

To the right of the gas control valve is the igniter. While continuing to hold the reset button down, click the igniter. Click until you see a blue flame in the gas window of the water heater.

Step 7: Continue To Hold Down The Reset Button For 20-30 Seconds.

After you see the flame and take your finger off the igniter, you must continue to hold down the reset button. Keep it pressed for 20-30 seconds longer. 

Step 8: Turn The Gas Control Valve To The "On" Setting

Gas Control Valve

Gas Control Valve on water heater

Now that the pilot is lit, you can turn the gas control valve back to the "On" setting. "On" should be in the center slot now.

Step 9: Turn The Thermostat Up

turn thermostat up on water heater)

turn thermostat up on water heater

Now you can turn your thermostat up so you can get hot water running again! 

Step 10: Enjoy Your Warm Water, Or Ask For Help!

If you try and to relight the pilot light and it will not stay lit, you may need a water heater repair from a Pro to help you out.

But What If You Don't Have A Manual Igniter ?

After You Turn Down The Thermostat And Shut The Gas Valve: Open Access Panel

Next, remove the access panel underneath the water heater thermostat. You can do this using a wrench.

After 5 minutes, Turn Gas Control Valve To "Pilot"

Now turn the gas shut off valve to “Pilot”. 

Next, Hold Gas Control Valve Down And Ignite Pilot With A Lighter

As you hold down the gas knob, light the pilot with a long lighter (something like a barbecue skewer). That said, if your gas water heater has an igniting button, press that instead.

Once The Flame Is Lit, Turn Gas Control Valve to "On"

Once the pilot light is ignited, you can release the reset button after 30 seconds and turn the gas knob to the “On” position. At this time, you should hear the main burner come on. Now your pilot light should hold a flame and hot water should be restored!

Furnace Pilot Light: Where It Is And What Does It Do?

The pilot light on a gas furnace is very important for creating heat in old furnaces. This continuously burning flame will ignite the gas, when the gas valve opens. Then, this heat warms the air brought into your furnace, which will be redistributed throughout your home. If your pilot light is out, you may experience your furnace blowing cold air. The pilot light is one of many possible reasons for why your furnace won't turn on. Explore our blog about furnaces not turning on if you would like more information! For more severe furnace issues that need a professional repair, access our blog on common furnace repair problems.

You can locate the pilot light by following the gas line into your furnace. The gas valve should have a switch that indicates whether the pilot light is on or off. From there, you should see a small tube that leads from the gas valve to the burner. Follow that small tube and you should find the location of the pilot light.

Why Furnace Pilot Light keeps going out

There are many reasons for why the pilot flame keeps going out in your furnace. Let's dive in!

Faulty Thermocouple Triggers Pilot Light to Go Out

The thermocouple is a safety device designed to shut off the gas valve if the pilot light goes out. Although, if your thermocouple is old, worn, damaged, wrongly positioned, or malfunctioning, it could have wrongly shut off the gas valve and prevented your pilot light from staying lit.

Dirty Thermocouple Makes Pilot Light Keeps Going Out

A dirty thermocouple may falsely trigger the safety device to stop ignition by mistakenly turn off the gas valve and eliminating the burning flame. 

Filthy Pilot Port/Orifice

dirty pilot opening makes pilot light keep going ou

Inspect Flame. If the flame is orange call an HVAC Pro ASAP!

If you light your pilot and the flame is yellow, a dirty pilot opening is preventing your pilot light from staying lit. When there is a buildup of dirt in the pilot light port, it can prevent the flame from properly engulfing the thermocouple. In turn, the safety mechanism is triggered, turning off the gas. This is a very common culprit resulting in why your pilot light keeps going out. 

Bad Gas Regulator

If you have gas appliances in your home, there is a gas regulator outside your home. When your gas regulator isn't working properly, your furnace may not receive enough gas to maintain its pilot light. If the pilot light is out in more than one device, such as your water heater, you likely have a bad gas regulator.

Bad Flue Venting Could Blow Out Pilot Light

If your flue pipe is loose, cracked, or not properly connected to the furnace, excess wind could enter through the holes and extinguish the pilot light flame. 

A Strong Draft

There is always the possibility that it was simply a strong draft that put your pilot light out. 

How To Re-Light A Furnace Pilot Light ?

Step 1: Review Furnace Manual

First and foremost, it is important to find the manual for your furnace. It will give you a better understanding of the inner workings of your specific furnace.

Step 2: Identify Pilot Light

Using the manual, find where the pilot light is located in your furnace. You will need to take the front of the furnace off to get proper access.

Step 3: Turn OFF Gas

Gas Valve

Next, identify the gas valve and turn it off. Most furnaces have a small valve near the bottom of the furnace. Gas valves generally have three settings: "ON," "OFF," and "PILOT". Turn the valve so that it’s in the “OFF” position. Before you take the next step, it is very important to wait for at least 5 minutes to ensure all gas has cleared out the pipes. Otherwise, a catastrophe could ensue.

Step 4: WAIT 5 Minutes, then Turn Gas to "Pilot"

After waiting 5 minutes, turn the gas valve to the “PILOT” position. It is critical that all the gas has dissipated before you do this. A few minutes could be the difference between peace and a disaster. Remember, gas is explosive! 

Step 5: Hold Reset Button

Next, hold the reset button. It is near the gas valve, but if you have trouble finding it, your furnace's owner’s manual should guide you in the right direction.

Step 6: Press The Igniter While Holding The Reset Button

As you continue to hold the reset button down, press the igniter to light the flame. Once the flame is lit, release the igniter and continue to hold down the reset button. Keep it pressed down for 20-30 seconds. As we mentioned before, if you do not have a manual igniter, you can use a BBQ lighter to light the pilot. 

pilot light in furnace

Step 7: Turn Gas to "ON" position

Once the pilot light is re-lit, turn the gas control valve back to the “ON’ position. You should be able to heat your home now!

Step 8: If you Aren't comfortable yet, call a pro!

If after following the proper steps you still can't get your pilot light to stay lit, call an HVAC pro for a furnace repair.

Boiler Pilot Light: Where It Is And What Does It Do? 

The pilot light in your boiler is essential for creating heat. The pilot burns continuously so it can ignite the gas when the gas valve is opened. When this happens, your boiler begins to heat the water, which gets redistributed for warmth throughout your home. In the event that your pilot light goes out, your boiler and central heating will not function.

The pilot light is located inside your boiler across from the gas valve. The boiler manual should give you a better understanding of where each part is located.

Why Boiler Pilot Light Goes Out

Dirty or Damaged Thermocouple Explains Why Pilot Light Keep Going Out

A faulty, misaligned, dirty, or damaged thermocouple is often the culprit behind your pilot light going out. The thermocouple is an automatic safety shutoff device that prevents the gas valve from opening if the pilot light is out. If there is a problem with your thermocouple or if it is simply covered in dirt and debris, you may experience pilot light problems.

Dirty Pilot Opening

As previously mentioned, whenever you light your pilot light and notice a yellow flame, a dirty pilot opening is causing your furnace pilot light to keep going out. If dirt collects in the pilot light port, it can prevent it from thoroughly engulfing the thermocouple with its flame. This falsely triggers the thermocouple safety mechanism, turning off your gas and putting out your heat.

Weak Gas Regulator Can Make Pilot Light Keeps Going Out

Returning to a previous discussion once again, a malfunctioning gas regulator may prevent your furnace from receiving enough gas to maintain its pilot light. If you notice pilot light problems with more than one gas appliance in your home, you may have a faulty or weak gas regulator.

A Strong Draft

A strong draft can easily snuff out your pilot light. 

How To Re-Light Boiler Pilot Light

Step 1: Use and Refer to Your Boiler's Owner Manual

Make sure you are familiar with the parts of your boiler by looking through its manual. It often includes instructions for reheating the pilot light.

Step 2: Shut OFF Boiler

Always start with turning off the boiler.

Step 3. Shut OFF Gas

Locate the gas valve and turn it “OFF.”

Step 4. Wait 10 Minutes

Wait about 10 minutes to make sure there is no leftover gas in the pipes.

Step 5. Open Boiler and Locate Pilot Light

After waiting, you can now open up the boiler. Remove the access panel to gain access to the pilot light. In most cases, this panel will be adjacent to the gas control knob box. Sometimes, you can just lift the panel up, but occasionally, it may be screwed on.

Step 6. Turn Gas to "Pilot"

Turn the gas control valve to the “Pilot” position.

Step 7. Hold Reset Button, Then Click Igniter

Press and hold the reset switch. While you are holding the reset button, click the igniter button until you see a flame. You should continue to hold the reset button for an additional 20-30 seconds after the flame is lit. 

Step 8. Turn Gas Control Valve To "On" Setting

Once the pilot light is re-lit, turn the gas control valve back to the “ON’ position. You should be able to heat your home now!

Step 9. Relax in Comfort

How did it go? Is your home heated and comfortable yet? If your pilot light struggled to maintain its flame, or you are still unsure how to light your pilot light, a boiler repair from SuperTech is only a call away! You don't have to deal with a cold house any longer; leave your questions and concerns to a certified professional. Call or schedule online for a boiler repair here

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How Do I Prevent My Pilot Light From Going Out?

Maintaining your water heater, furnace, and boiler will prevent those pesky pilot lights from going out. During a maintenance check, a professional will inspect the condition of the pilot light and thermocouple, as well as clean them both so they work at optimal efficiency. Additionally, depending on the appliance, a pro will evaluate the gas valve, all of the connecting piping and wiring, flue venting, and all other functioning parts of your appliance to ensure each part is operating at maximum efficiency. Learn more about a furnace tune-up in our blog on the subject! Regular maintenance for your furnace, water heater, and boiler are all necessities so that you can ensure your heat or hot water never goes out!

Soak Up The Warmth!

So there you have it! A brief overview of how to relight various pilot lights, and the most common reasons why these pilot lights out. We know that a home with no heat or hot water is the absolute worst! If you are having trouble keeping your pilot light lit or still unsure about the process, it's always best to call a professional for help.

If you are experiencing any pilot light problems, don't hesitate to give us a call at (443) 219- 7798 or schedule online here.

Baltimore's best HVAC company is here to help!

  • Great blog! on Pilot light issues as an owner, I liked the detailed explanation fixing of a pilot light issue with step by step explanation along with images last month water heater has been damaged and not working and I can’t understand where the faulty is located that time I go through some of the articles and I went detailed through your article I noticed the faulty is at thermocouple with your article and I replaced the thermocouple
    a part and the water heater working well once again thank you for sharing this helpful blog.

  • I moved out of my house for a couple years so my furnace & hot water heater was off the entire time. Now that I’m back home, I haven’t got my water heater to light & my furnace lit right up, but only stayed lit for a couple days. After reading this, I’m 98% certain both are just dirty. I’m going to pray that cleaning them fixes both & trust the good Lord they both work when I’m finished. Thank you

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