How to Light a Pilot Light
Time Required: Under 2 hours
A pilot light is a small blue flame that ignites a gas appliance. Most modern gas appliances have electric starters or igniters. In some older natural gas appliances the pilot light can go out due to drafts, condensation or mechanical failures. If you have an older appliance, you should know how to relight a pilot light. This guide reviews how to light a pilot light on a furnace, on water heaters, on stoves and in ovens.
Safety Tip: If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound around an appliance, you may have a gas leak. Do not try relighting your pilot light. Do not use your phone. Immediately leave the house. Once outside, call a professional service technician.
- Locate the pilot light on the water heater. If it’s covered by an access panel, use a screwdriver to remove it.
- Find the gas regulator valve and turn it to the “off” position. Wait 5 to 10 minutes for any residual gas to clear out.
- Turn the temperature control valve to the lowest setting. (Some have a "pilot" setting.) Turn the gas regulator valve to the “pilot” position.
- If the water heater has a manual “ignite” button, press that to light the pilot.
- If it doesn’t have the button, or the button fails, press the regulator valve and hold a grill lighter or long match to the pilot light valve until the pilot ignites. Hold the button down for up to a minute to ensure that the light stays lit.
- Turn the gas regulator valve to the “on” position.
- Turn the temperature valve to its desired setting.
- Close the access panel.
If you have a gas furnace, here are the steps on how to light a pilot light.
- First, locate the pilot valve on the furnace. There should be posted lighting instructions on your furnace.
- Find the gas valve and turn it to the "off" position. Wait for residual gas in the pipes to clear out.
- Turn the valve to the “pilot” position.
- Press and hold the reset button.
- If the reset button fails, ignite the lighter. Hold down the reset button and bring a grill lighter or long match to the pilot light valve until the pilot ignites.
- Once the pilot light stays lit, turn the valve to the “on” position. You should hear the furnace activate.
- Turn all the stovetop control knobs to the “off” position.
- Remove covers from the stove burners and clean them with a damp cleaning cloth. Built-up grease or dirt may keep them from lighting.
- Open the stovetop lid and remove drip trays if necessary.
- If you have a four-burner stovetop, locate the central pilot light ports at the left and right. Wipe the pilot light valves with a cleaning rag or paper towel.
- Use a grill lighter or long match to light the central pilot light valves.
- Replace the drip trays, close the stovetop lid and replace the other stovetop hardware.
- Turn on one of the burners to make sure it lights properly, then turn it off.
- Make sure the oven is turned off.
- Open the oven door and locate the pilot light opening at the bottom of the oven. The owner’s manual should identify the pilot light’s exact location if it’s hard to find.
- Use a grill lighter or long match to light the pilot light valve at the bottom of the oven.
- Some ovens are designed to be manually lit at each use. In this case, slowly turn the temperature knob while holding the flame to the pilot light valve.
- Close the oven door after the pilot light ignites.
Tip: If your oven has a separate broiler compartment, check it for the pilot light if you can’t find it in the main compartment.
Relighting a pilot light is easier if you're prepared. While your natural gas appliance is running normally, find the pilot light. If your appliance is located in a basement or other dark area, use a flashlight, headlamp or the light from a smartphone to find the pilot light valve. Notice where it is and how it looks.
- If your stovetop or other appliance has a ventilation fan, turn it on while lighting the pilot.
- It may take several attempts to light the pilot. If you run the gas for a couple of seconds without ignition, take a few minutes to let the gas clear before trying again.
- If the pilot light won't light after multiple attempts, you may have a mechanical failure. Call a service technician.
If you're having trouble cooking or there's no hot water, check your pilot light first. Most of the time a gas appliance doesn't work it's because the pilot light is out. If an older gas appliance model isn't working, relighting a pilot light can be a simple fix. Newer models of natural gas appliances have electronic ignition systems, so there's rarely a need to know how to light a standing pilot light.
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