Your water heater relies on a functioning pilot light to provide heat. Without a functioning pilot light, you’ll end up with a water heater that won’t heat. This means you can expect cold water to come from all of your taps.
What do you do if your water heater pilot light keeps going out? What even causes this issue in the first place? Keep reading to learn more.
What Is a Pilot Light, and How Does It Work?
In gas-powered water heaters, the gas must ignite first to produce heat. The most effective way for this to happen is to use an existing flame. The gas will ignite immediately upon coming into contact with this flame; then, it’s ready to go. Once the gas has been lit, it will produce a flame that provides heat.
This initial source of ignition is what the pilot light is there for. It’s a constantly running flame that’s there to ignite the gas. Without it, the gas has nothing to get it started.
It’s worth noting that many modern water heaters have transitioned to electronic ignition systems, a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional pilot lights. These systems provide reliable ignition without the need for a continuously burning flame.
How to Tell if It’s Working Properly
You can run a quick inspection on your pilot light to see if everything is working properly. You can do this by following the steps listed below.
- Check the color. Your pilot light should burn blue if it’s working correctly. If it’s burning yellow or red, this means it isn’t burning hot enough. In most cases, you’ll be able to see the color of the flame to check its status.
- Check the consistency of the flame. Your pilot light should be a steadily burning stream. If it’s flickering or waving around, this means something is wrong.
- Check for a split flame. The pilot light’s flame should be a single flame. If it splits into separate parts, there could be dirt in the tube that’s disrupting the flame.
- Check the strength of the flame. The flame should be relatively powerful. If it isn’t, there may not be enough airflow, or the gas may not be combusting properly.
Common Causes, Problems, and Pilot Light Tips
Pilot Light Goes Out Due to Condensation
Some pilot lights are located near places that experience a lot of condensation. When this condensation builds up, the water can drip down and extinguish the pilot light.
This often happens in water heaters that have recently been turned on or those that receive particularly cold water. In these situations, you should keep an eye on the pilot light to monitor the condensation level.
Improper Venting or Air Supply
The air around a pilot light impacts how it functions. Air moving around the flame can disrupt it or blow it out entirely.
In these cases, you should be aware of how airflow impacts the pilot light. Examine the area for drafts or anything else that could have an impact on it. If you find something that may be blowing the flame out, it’s recommended that you take care of it immediately.
A Dirty Thermocouple
The thermocouple is a key component of any water heater. It’s what closes the gas valve when the pilot light goes out. This safety feature is included with the valve so gas won’t just leak out if the flame isn’t there anymore. When functioning correctly, it stops the flow of gas in these situations.
It’s worth noting that in some cases, the thermocouple can experience problems that cause it to cut off the gas supply when it should continue flowing. This can happen if dirt or grime interferes with the electrical systems that govern it.
This is why it’s important to keep the thermocouple clean. Cleaning it when it gets dirty or simply preventing it from getting dirty in the first place are great ways to resolve this situation.
The Pilot Doesn’t Light
In some cases, the pilot light goes out and won’t light back up again. If this happens, you should resolve the underlying issue to get it working again.
The issue could be due to:
- The wire connection. If the connection isn’t secure, the light won’t light. You’ll need to secure it to get it working again.
- The gas supply. If the light doesn’t receive gas, it has nothing to keep it lit. In this case, you’ll need to take a look at what’s preventing the gas from getting through to fix the issue.
- A line blockage. If the line is blocked, it will prevent the flow of gas and prevent the light from lighting. To fix this, the line will have to either be cleaned or changed.
- The thermocouple. Problems with the thermocouple can potentially keep the light from lighting.
- Soot or carbon. Sometimes, soot or carbon builds up on the pilot light. You can use something abrasive, like sandpaper or a cloth, to clean it up.
Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit
In some cases, the pilot light ignites but quickly goes out again. This, again, means there’s an underlying problem that must be resolved.
The issue could be:
- A dirty tube: If the pilot light tube is dirty, it can put out the light over time. You’ll need to clean it with something abrasive to get it working again.
- Not enough gas: Sometimes, the gas valve will leak, or something else prevents gas from getting through the line. You must determine what the issue is and fix it to restore ample gas flow.
- Broken thermocouple: The issue could lie with the thermocouple. You should fix or replace this component.
- Air in the gas line: Enough air in the gas line will put out the pilot light. This is an issue a professional will need to diagnose and take care of.
- Problems with the thermostat: The thermostat can also impact the pilot light. It must be fixed or replaced to resolve the issue.
- Problems with the gas control valve: Another potential point of failure is the gas control valve. Getting it working again means either conducting repairs or replacing it entirely.
Water Heater Repair & Replacement Services in Framingham, MA
Fixing your pilot light is possible on your own but can be incredibly difficult. Simply diagnosing why your water heater pilot light keeps going out is a job of its own. However, finding a way to fix it after you’ve diagnosed the issue is another thing altogether.
That’s why it’s best to leave issues like this to the professionals. You can call the expert plumbers at Nicholson if you need help. We provide professional plumbing services to residents in Framingham and surrounding areas.
We can diagnose what’s wrong with your pilot light, address the issue, and resolve any other problems with your water heater. We’ll even help with water heater replacement if it’s necessary. You can rely on Nicholson to help you with all your plumbing related needs.