A step-by-step guide on lighting the pilot of a water heater

Having hot water in your home is essential for various activities such as showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry. If you have a gas water heater, you may need to know how to light the pilot if it goes out. The pilot flame is responsible for igniting the gas burner and heating the water in the tank. Fortunately, the process of lighting the pilot is relatively straightforward and can be done in a few simple steps.

Before you begin, it’s important to ensure your safety. Make sure the area around the water heater is free from any flammable materials and that there are no gas leaks. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, it’s crucial to turn off the gas supply and contact a professional immediately.

To light the pilot, you’ll need to locate the pilot light assembly, which is typically found at the bottom of the water heater. Before proceeding, make sure the gas control knob is in the “off” position. Then, locate the pilot valve, which is usually labeled and has two settings: “on” and “off”.

Next, you’ll need to turn the knob to the “off” position and wait for a few minutes to allow any residual gas to dissipate. Then, using a long-reach lighter or match, carefully ignite the pilot by inserting the flame into the pilot assembly and pressing the reset button, if necessary. Once the pilot ignites, continue holding the reset button for about one minute to ensure the pilot flame stays lit. Finally, you can turn the gas control knob to the “on” position and adjust the temperature as needed.

Remember, if you encounter any difficulties or if the pilot light continues to go out, it’s best to consult a professional plumber or gas technician. They can diagnose and fix any issues with your water heater, ensuring it operates efficiently and safely.

Gather the Necessary Tools

Before attempting to light the pilot on your water heater, it is important to gather all the necessary tools. Having the right tools on hand will make the process much easier and safer. Here are the tools you will need:

1. Safety goggles: It is essential to protect your eyes while working with a water heater. Safety goggles will shield your eyes from any sparks or debris.

2. Long-reach lighter: A long-reach lighter is used to ignite the pilot flame. It has a long handle that allows you to reach the pilot light safely without getting too close to the flame.

3. Combination wrench: You will need a combination wrench to loosen and tighten the gas control valve and thermocouple connections. Make sure to use the right size wrench for your specific water heater model.

4. Flashlight: A flashlight will come in handy, especially if your water heater is located in a dimly lit area. It will help you see the pilot light and any other components more clearly.

5. Owner’s manual: It is always a good idea to have the owner’s manual for your water heater handy. The manual will provide specific instructions and diagrams for your particular model, which can be useful during the pilot lighting process.

Make sure to gather all these tools before attempting to light the pilot on your water heater. Taking the time to gather the necessary tools will ensure a smooth and successful pilot lighting process.

Locate the Pilot Light

Before attempting to light the pilot on your water heater, you first need to locate it. The pilot light is a small flame that is constantly burning and is responsible for igniting the gas burner when hot water is needed.

Most water heaters will have a small access panel on the front or side that can be removed to access the pilot light. It is often labeled with a picture of a flame or the word “pilot.” If you can’t find the access panel, consult your water heater’s manual for specific instructions.

Access Panel

Example of a water heater access panel

Once you have located the access panel, carefully remove it using a screwdriver or other appropriate tool. Be sure to set the screws aside in a safe place so you don’t lose them.

With the access panel removed, you should now have a clear view of the pilot light. It is typically a small burner located near the bottom of the water heater. The burner might be covered by a metal shield or other protective component, so you may need to remove that as well to access the pilot light.

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the different components surrounding the pilot light. This will help you understand the lighting process and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Before continuing with the lighting procedure, it’s important to make sure you have the necessary safety equipment, such as gloves and protective eyewear, as well as a flashlight to provide better visibility in case the area is dimly lit.

Turn Off the Gas

Before attempting to light the pilot on your water heater, it is important to ensure that the gas supply is turned off. This step is crucial for the safety of both yourself and your home. Here’s how to turn off the gas:

  1. Locate the gas valve on the water heater. It is usually located near the bottom of the unit.
  2. Turn the gas valve to the “Off” position. This may be indicated by a vertical position or a perpendicular position to the gas line.
  3. Use a flashlight to double-check that the gas is indeed off. Look for the absence of a flame at the pilot light. If there is still a flame, the gas may still be on, and you should contact a professional to assist you.

Once the gas is turned off, you can proceed with lighting the pilot on your water heater. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and exercise caution when handling gas appliances. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the process, it is always recommended to seek professional assistance.

Prepare to Light the Pilot

Before you start, it’s important to gather all the necessary tools and materials. This will ensure that you have everything you need for a successful pilot lighting.

Here are the things you will need:

  • Long-reach lighter or fireplace match
  • Safety goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Owner’s manual for your water heater (if available)

Once you have all the necessary items, make sure to find the gas control valve on your water heater. This is where you will find the pilot light and the instructions for lighting it.

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the location of the gas control valve, as well as the specific steps for lighting the pilot according to your water heater’s make and model.

Also, be sure to turn off the gas supply to the water heater before attempting to light the pilot. This will ensure your safety during the process.

Ignite the Pilot Light

Once you have identified the pilot light on your water heater, follow these steps to ignite it:

  1. Locate the gas control valve. It is usually a red or black dial located on the front of the water heater.
  2. Turn the gas control valve to the “Off” position and wait for at least five minutes to allow any accumulated gas to dissipate.
  3. After the wait time, turn the gas control valve to the “Pilot” position.
  4. Press and hold down the pilot reset button, usually located near the gas control valve.
  5. While holding down the pilot reset button, use a long lighter or match to ignite the pilot light. Keep the button depressed for about one minute to ensure that the pilot light stays lit.
  6. Release the pilot reset button and check if the pilot light is still burning. If it goes out, repeat the process.
  7. If the pilot light stays lit, turn the gas control valve to the “On” position.

Once the pilot light is ignited, the water heater should start heating the water. However, if you continue to experience problems with the pilot light going out or the water heater not functioning properly, it is recommended to contact a professional plumber or technician for further assistance.

Test the Pilot Light

After successfully lighting the pilot light, it is important to test it to ensure that it is functioning properly. Follow these steps to test the pilot light:

1. Observe the Flame

Take a close look at the pilot light flame. It should be a steady blue flame. If the flame is weak or flickering, it may indicate a problem with the gas supply or the pilot assembly.

2. Check for Consistency

Let the pilot light burn for a few minutes and observe its consistency. The flame should remain constant without any fluctuations. Fluctuating flame could be a sign of a dirty or clogged pilot orifice.

3. Perform the Paper Test

To determine if the pilot light is producing enough heat, perform a paper test. Hold a lit match or a strip of paper close to the pilot light flame. The flame should be strong enough to ignite the match or paper. If it fails to do so, the pilot light may need adjustment.

4. Look for Soot or Rust

Inspect the area around the pilot light for any signs of soot or rust. Excessive soot or rust could indicate a combustion problem or a malfunctioning pilot assembly.

If you notice any issues during the pilot light test, it is recommended to contact a professional technician to inspect and repair the water heater.


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Ryan Pietrzak

Ryan Pietrzak, a licensed plumber with 12+ years of experience, is the trusted expert behind Plumbing.Academy. With a wealth of practical knowledge, Ryan guides you through plumbing challenges, making informed decisions easier. His reputable advice, rooted in real-world expertise, empowers both DIY enthusiasts and seasoned plumbers.