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Is the pilot light on my water heater out? How Do I Relight It?

Cold showers? Blinking status lights? No flame where there should be a flame? These are signs the pilot light on your water heater is out. Fortunately, it’s a really easy fix.

In this article, we’ll go over:

  • How to tell if your pilot light’s out
  • How to turn it back on
  • How long before you’ll have hot water again
  • Why it keeps going out

Meanwhile, if you have any questions or need help, call or email us at Broadley’s.

Even as we self-isolate and practice social distancing, Broadley’s uses phone calls and virtual consultations to answer questions and get more information.

Signs your pilot light is out

Three quick ways to tell if your water heater’s pilot light is out are:

  • Your Water is Cold
  • Blinking Light or Error Message
  • You Can’t See the Flame

Your Water Is Cold

If you’ve gotten to the point where you only get cold water, start troubleshooting by checking the pilot light.

There are other possible reasons why you’re not getting hot water, of course. The most obvious is if you’ve just used a lot and drained the tank.

However, if that’s not the case, check the pilot light first. If that’s not the cause, then you may have a bigger problem. But, with any luck, it’s a quick fix.

Blinking Light or Error Message

Your first step is checking the control panel on your unit. It’s usually down at the bottom of the unit with a light or two on it.

Depending on your model, that light may stay on, blink, or change colors to indicate there’s a problem.

Check the manual if you have it. But, most times, there’s a sticker or key right on the heater telling you what the different lights mean.

If your light indicates the pilot light is out, then you’ve identified the problem.

You Can’t See the Flame

Your last step is visual inspection. Even using the status light, it’s worth double-checking. You’ll also need to know where to look for later.

There should also be a gap at the bottom of the unit, where you can see underneath it. That’s where the flame should be.

It’s easiest to find if you’ve checked there before and have seen the pilot light burning. But, if you don’t see anything, and the status light indicates that it’s out, then you’ve found the problem.

How to Turn Your Water Heater Pilot Light Back On

It’s easy to turn your water heater pilot back on. But first, check for a gas leak. If there’s a leak, then igniting a flame can cause an explosion.

Fortunately, this is easy: Sniff around the pilot light area and make sure you don’t smell any gas. If that’s clear, you can proceed.

Now, different models will have some variations on how exactly to do this. But, the general idea is the same.

Check that access panel again. You’ll see a knob with temperature settings along with a notch that says, “Pilot” or “Pilot Light.”

Find that and the ignitor button. It’s usually right on the panel. Turn and hold the knob to “Pilot” and push the ignitor.

You should hear it click, and probably also a “whooshing” sound. Check in that gap, and you should see the light on.

How Long Will It Take to Get Hot Water Again?

The average gas heater takes between thirty and forty minutes to heat a full tank of water. The exact time depends on the capacity.

For comparison’s sake: An electric heater takes at least an hour, usually up to 80 minutes, to warm up. The same goes for solar-powered units.

On the other hand, tankless systems neither have a pilot light, nor a wait time for hot water — ever.

Tankless setups don’t hold warm water in a tank, waiting for you to use it. Instead, they heat it instantly as you turn on the faucet.

They’re becoming especially popular for shore homes, where you have multiple units or a lot of people are showering at once coming off the beach.

Why Does My Pilot Light Keep Going Out?

Two common reasons the pilot light keeps going out are dirt around the pilot area or a problem with the thermocouple.

We’ll look at each one here.

The area around the light is dirty

Dirt around the pilot light, particularly around the pilot light opening, can cause it to keep going out. You can tell if this is a problem by the color of the flame.

Dirty flame

A flame that’s a steady blue cone is a sign that everything’s fine. However, if the flame is orange or yellow, and waving, then it’s burning up dirt and other pollutants.

At that point, the flame isn’t warm enough to heat things properly. And, it’s more likely to burn out.

Thermocouple problems

A weak flame won’t heat the thermocouple, which is a safety component on your unit. The thermocouple can close the line that provides gas for combustion. When your heater is working the way it should, gas flows in and burns to generate heat.

But, if something’s not working correctly, the chamber can fill with gas and eventually leak into your home. So, the pilot light keeps the thermocouple warm, which keeps the gas flowing.

If the pilot light goes out, it doesn’t warm the thermocouple, which then shuts to prevent unused gas from building up.

But, if the thermocouple is dirty or worn out, it may not respond to the heat and then shut off the gas. With no fuel, the pilot light goes out.

Water Heater Repairs in South Jersey

If your water heater’s pilot light goes out regularly, or if you’ve noticed other problems, call or email us here at Broadley’s for an appointment.