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How To Light a Pilot LightHow To Light a Pilot Light – Standing pilot gas furnaces and water heaters are still around today even in newer homes. All the major hardware stores and HVAC dealers carry standing pilot appliances. Although a new standing pilot gas furnace or boiler are rare finds these days. Because of the move to higher efficiency models and the wide use of electronic ignition technology which improves efficiency. Before you proceed you’ll want to determine if you actually have a standing pilot system in you HVAC furnace, boiler, or water heater.

In many cases, on many appliances there are basic instructions on lighting the pilot light if in fact you do have a standing pilot system. Check around the main panel or look at the gas valve itself. Sometimes, especially on older appliances, there are no instructions on lighting a pilot light if the pilot light goes out on a standing pilot gas furnace, boiler, or water heater. The label or sticker on the furnace, boiler, or water heater faded a long time ago and you will need to follow the instructions in this article.

How To Light a Pilot Light - HVAC Heating

Step 1: Determine That You Actually Have a Standing Pilot Gas System

First of all, determine if you have a standing pilot light system before proceeding. Electronic ignition gas valves look similar to standing pilot gas valves. Look at the gas valve and the knob or button on it. Look carefully and see if there is a pilot setting on it. Different manufacturers make different looking standing pilot gas valves and within the manufacturers gas valves each model if slightly different. Any standing pilot gas valve will have a setting on the knob or switch that says pilot. There should be an indicator arrow on the knob which should align with the pilot position as the valve is labeled. If you find this is the case then proceed to step two.

How To Light a Pilot Light

Step 2: Check to Make Sure You Have Fuel

Gas Valve – There are many reasons why a standing pilot gas valve goes out. One of the reasons is because the system has no fuel. Standing pilot gas systems use either propane or natural gas for fuel. If you have natural gas check the meter. Follow the gas line to make sure there is no manual gas valve which has been accidentally shut off. Many gas companies perform spot checks in different neighborhoods with sensitive gas leak detectors or combustible gas testers.

If the gas company determines there is a leak in your area and even on your property they will shut down the gas serving that area. The gas company does not always make an effort to inform everyone that they shut down the gas in your neighborhood. If they shut you particular gas meter off because they detected a leak nearby they will usually red tag the meter and place a lock on the shut off valve. If you don’t have a red tag or lock on your gas meter maybe you should call to see if there is an interruption in gas service in your area.

Checking for Gas Service Interruption - Natural Gas or Propane?

how to lite a pilot lite
Check other appliances which use gas to see if they work. If these other gas appliances work then there is not an interruption in gas service to your home or business. The possibility may exist that you do not have another gas appliance in your home other than the system in question then call the gas company. If you have propane check to make sure there is propane in the tank. Many tanks have indicators on them to tell you what level the propane is in the tank. This indicator should be similar to the gas gage in your vehicle. Check to make sure you have fuel before proceeding. Otherwise you will find it a frustrating experience if there is no fuel source. If you have determined you have the fuel source proceed to Step 3.

How To Light a Pilot Light

Step 3: Understanding the Valve Function

Look at the gas valve and study the knob and any buttons near the knob. Figure out how the knob works and what position to turn it to light the pilot. Some gas valves have a lever switch which is set to one position for normal operation, another position to turn the valve off, and another position to light the pilot. Other gas valves have a knob which you turn to the pilot position and then push the knob in to start the flow of gas to the pilot. Still other gas valves have a knob which you turn to a pilot position and then a separate button altogether which is pushed down to start the flow of gas to start the pilot.

Furthermore, there are many different brand and styles of valves with there own unique way of lighting the pilot. Figure out how this works and how to start the flow of gas to the pilot. After you have mastered this get a lighter (preferably a log lighter which has a long extension on it) or a long match so that you can reach the pilot light easily. Next, follow the pilot gas line which is a 1/4 or 1/8 inch aluminum tube which originates from the gas valve and ends at the pilot assembly. This is where you want to put the lighter or match when you get ready to light the pilot light. Once you have figured all this out you are ready to proceed to Step 4.

How To Light a Pilot Light

Step 4: Lighting the Pilot Light

How To Light a Pilot Light – Get the match or lighter ready and turn the knob or lever to the pilot position. Light your match or lighter and depress the button, knob, or lever. Hold the fire from the match or lighter close to the pilot assembly. You should see the pilot light fire burning. Remove the match and continue holding the knob, button, or lever to keep the pilot flame burning. You should hold in this position for at least one minute. After one minute release the button, knob or lever and the flame should continue to burn. If the flame goes out then try again. If after several attempts and the pilot flame fails to stay lit it is time to call an HVAC technician to troubleshoot the problem and repair it.

There are many reasons why the pilot light will fail to stay lit and among them are: Bad thermocouple or thermophile, bad gas valve, dirty pilot assembly or plug pilot gas tube, thermocouple or thermophile out of alignment and not properly positioned in the flame. All these problems will be easily repaired quickly and efficiently by a qualified HVAC technician.

How To Light a Pilot Light - Conclusion

Finally, recapping “How to light a pilot light” steps:

  1. Determine That You Actually Have a Standing Pilot Gas System
  2. Check to Make Sure You Have Fuel
  3. Understanding the Valve Function
  4. Light the Pilot Light

Related Link: How to Test a thermocouple with a multimeter (opens in a new window)

Furthermore, here is a video of a man demonstrating lighting the pilot light.  He lights gas logs which in many cases gas logs have an igniter. Many boilers, furnaces, and water heaters do not have a manual igniter. This is why the article above makes it a necessity for you to have a lighter or matches.

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How To Light a Pilot Light

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