Do It Yourself: Lighting Your Water Heater

How to Light Your Water Heater

Your water heater is one of the most important parts of your Chandler home, particularly during the cold winter months, and it’s crucial to keep it operating as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes due to circumstances, your heater’s pilot light may go out. To avoid an expensive water heater repair bill, here is a step-by-step guide to relighting your heater’s pilot light.

 Chandler, AZ Lighting-water-heaters1: Pre-lighting procedures

Older heaters will have an access panel at the bottom of the tank that can be removed to check and see if the pilot light has gone out. If there is not a small flame visible, then the pilot light has gone out. Newer heaters may lack this panel, and instead have a see-through area with a view of the pilot light area. Check your heater’s manual if you’re unsure. Make sure there is no gas present. Natural gas is normally odorless, but gas companies add a substance called mercaptan to render it smellable. This substance will smell like sulfur or rotten eggs. If you smell this in or around your heater, and/or hear a hissing sound which may indicate a gas leak, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RELIGHT IT. Leave the area and call your gas company immediately, and they will tell you how to proceed. If there are no leaks, check both the manual and the door panel on the heater for specific instructions. If this guide and your heater’s instructions differ, disregard this guide and follow the instructions.

2: Preparing to Relight the Pilot Light

First, set the temperature to the lowest setting possible. This is usually done using a box outside the water heater. Next, locate the regulator valve. It’s usually on the same box as the temperature control, and regulates gas flow to the pilot light. Turn it off all the way, and wait about 10 minutes to allow any gas from the tank to disperse. Next, figure out what kind of pilot light your water heater has. Older models will require you to use an open flame to reignite the pilot light, while newer models will have an electric light igniter. If you have an older model, be sure to have a long, wand-style lighter or fireplace matches on hand to be able to relight it. Finally, find the pilot. This is typically on the end of a small metal tube that extends out of the control valve. You may need to use a flashlight to find it. Again, check your manual before proceeding.

 Chandler, AZ Lighting-water-heaters-23: Relighting the Pilot Light

First, turn the gas valve to the “Pilot” position and then, depending on your heater’s model, either push down on the valve or the control button near the valve. This will start the flow of gas to the pilot. While holding down the valve or button as previously instructed, you will need to relight the pilot. On newer heaters, this will involve holding down the pilot light button. If it is working correctly, you will hear it clicking until the pilot ignites. Older models, as previously stated, will require you to hold a flame near the pilot until it ignites. After it does so, hold down the valve/button for approximately a minute or so. This will heat up the thermocouple, a sensor that automatically shuts off the flow of gas to the heater if it senses that the pilot light has gone out. After the minute has elapsed, release it and watch the pilot light to see if it stays lit. If so, replace any panels that you may have had to take off to relight the pilot. This will keep any flame from escaping the heater. This accomplished, open the regulator valve to allow the main burners to ignite. If they’ve reignited, re-set the heater’s temperature to an acceptable level (the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a maximum of 49 degrees centigrade/120 degrees Fahrenheit).

4: Troubleshooting Recommendations

If the pilot light does not ignite, the pilot may be dirty or clogged. If so, clean it and wait another ten minutes before trying again. You may also want to try holding the valve/button for another 30-45 seconds before releasing it. If it goes out immediately after relighting, your thermocouple may be broken. The thermocouple extends from the temperature-control area to the base of the pilot light. Thermocouples are relatively cheap and easy to replace, and can be found at virtually any Chandler area home improvement store. If repeating this process fails several times, you may have low gas pressure or a faulty valve. In this case, you may want to contact your gas provider to test your pipes’ pressure and see if they can help you. If you live in the Chandler area, contact ABC Plumbing & Rooter at (480) 726-1600 to schedule an appointment. They have the experience in water heater repair to help, whatever the cause.