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How to Light Your Water Heater's Pilot Light

July 03, 2024

Hot water is a staple in any home, and for those with an older gas water heater, the pilot light plays a crucial role in heating the water in your tank. Should this pilot light extinguish, the heater won't function, leaving you with cold water.

While newer heaters often feature electric ignition, those with traditional gas heaters might need to relight the pilot occasionally. This article will guide you through:

  • The importance of knowing how to light your water heater's pilot light
  • A step-by-step guide to lighting your pilot light
  • Why your pilot light goes out and how to prevent it
  • When to call a professional for your water heater issues
  • Enhancing your home's water heating system

Need help with a faulty pilot light?

If you encounter any difficulties or if your pilot light frequently goes out, it might be time to call in the experts. At Jon Wayne Service Company, our professional plumbers offer reliable water heater repairs with transparent pricing. Contact us today for top-notch service.

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The Importance of Knowing How to Light Your Water Heater's Pilot Light

If the water coming out of your tap stays cold, you should first check the water heater pilot light. Start by looking for a visible flame near the front of the heater. No flame means the light is probably out. When the pilot light is out, the heater can't burn the gas that it uses as a fuel source to heat your water. The pilot light on a water heater is usually located near the bottom of the tank behind an access panel and near the gas control valve.

Step-by-Step Guide to Lighting Your Pilot Light

Before you start the process of lighting your pilot light, ensure that there is sufficient gas in your tank, especially if you use propane. A common issue is that the tank can be empty or too low to provide enough pressure, which is an easy check you can do before proceeding.


  • Long lighter, or matchstick
  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver
  • Owner’s manual
  • Work gloves


  1. Turn off the gas using the gas control valve on the water heater and wear sturdy gloves to protect against heat.
  2. Remove the access panel, typically located near the bottom of the water heater.
  3. Prepare for ignition. Use a long lighter or matchstick to ignite the pilot light. Hold the flame near the pilot burner while pressing the reset button or knob. This should ignite the pilot light.
  4. Turn the gas back on. Turn the gas control valve back to the "on" position. You should hear the sound of gas flowing to the burner.
  5. Replace the access panel. Securely fasten the access panel back in place, ensuring it is sealed properly.

If your pilot light doesn't light after checking the gas levels, use a can of compressed air to blow out any dirt or debris that may be interfering with the pilot. Also, check for drafts that may be blowing out the light. If the pilot still won't light, it's probably time to call a professional for help with water heater repairs.

Why Your Pilot Light Goes Out and How to Prevent It

Some of the most common reasons a pilot light goes out include a dirty pilot orifice, a draft, or a faulty thermocouple. To address these issues:

  • Check your gas supply, particularly if you're on propane; ensure your tank is sufficiently full.
  • Clean the pilot light area regularly with canned air or a brush to keep it clear of debris.
  • Check for and fix any drafts that may be extinguishing the pilot light.

If you maintain these practices and your pilot light still won't stay lit, it's time to call a plumber for help. These steps will help ensure your pilot light remains functional and reduce the likelihood of unexpected water heater problems.

When to Call a Professional for Your Water Heater Issues

While lighting the pilot light is a task many homeowners can handle, certain issues may require professional attention. If your pilot light won't stay lit or you notice the smell of gas near your water heater, get a professional to diagnose what's wrong. If you have an older water heater, it may be time to replace it with a tankless water heater that doesn't have a pilot light to worry about.

Enhancing Your Home's Water Heating System

Schedule annual maintenance for your water heater to ensure optimal performance and catch potential issues early. If your water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan or you are looking to improve energy efficiency, consider upgrading to a more efficient model. Depending on your home's needs and energy preferences, you can explore options such as a tankless water heater for long-term savings and environmental benefits.

Get Professional Help with Your Water Heater Today with Jon Wayne!

Whether you need a water heater repair or want to upgrade to a tankless water heater, the licensed plumbers at Jon Wayne Service Company deliver five-star service time after time. With our fast response times, you won't be taking cold showers for long.

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