This is a common occurrence for those that have water heaters or older gas furnaces. These types of heat appliances utilize pilot lights to light the main burner. This can turn into a nuisance for both maintaining heat or hot water. If its the water heater you have to re-light the pilot and then wait for the water heater to heat the water. The same for a furnace. You have to light the pilot light and then wait for the furnace to heat the home to a comfortable temperature. There are a few main reasons why this occurs and we will describe them here. It is our hope that you find the solution to your problem because we know it can cause discomfort. It is frustrating to have to constantly re-light the pilot light so you can get hot water or heat. Is it the gas valve and thermocouple or something else?
Why Does My Pilot Light Keep Going Out
The number one reason why the pilot light keeps going out is the thermocouple. Either the thermocouple is going bad or it is dirty and needs to be cleaned. Thermocouples work by producing a small amount of voltage when it is heated. This is the pilot flame that provides the heat. A gas valve that uses a thermocouple needs the voltage from the thermocouple to keep the valve open providing gas to the pilot flame. If the pilot valve (inside the gas valve) is not open then the main valve will not open. This is a safety feature to ensure the main burners have an ignition source. Without this safety feature it would be possible to release a large volume of combustible gas. That can be dangerous. Thus the safety pilot.
If the thermocouple is going bad then it is not sending the correct amount of voltage to the coil in the gas valve. This will cause the coil to close the pilot valve preventing gas from getting to the pilot nozzle. In this case, the thermocouple needs to be replaced. Before purchasing a new thermocouple a check of the gas line to the pilot assembly should be done. In a few cases debris got trapped in the gas line and blocked the gas. Cleaning the tubing by blowing through it should clean all the debris from the line. The pilot assembly, pilot nozzle, and even the thermocouple should be clean. Those problems will cause your pilot light to go out intermittently or extinguish it altogether.
Gas Valve and Thermocouple
If all those things above with the thermocouple are done and the pilot still will not light then the gas valve is the problem. Since gas valves are not serviceable the gas valve needs to be replaced. An important test to do before condemning the gas valve is to test the thermocouple for proper output. We have another page here at High Performance HVAC to help you test the thermocouple if you want to do it yourself. You will need a multimeter to accomplish the testing of the thermocouple. It would also help to have another person helping you or have alligator clamps for the thermocouple testing.
Drafts and High Winds | Why Does My Pilot Light Keep Going Out
The next possible problem that can keep your pilot light going out is an environmental problem. If the water heater or furnace is in a garage then it may be necessary to make observations as to when the pilot light is going out. For example, is someone opening the garage door when this occurs? Is the wind blowing hard outside? I have found this occurring on some service calls during high wind periods. The high wind caused a draft that extinguished the pilot flame. Sometimes it occurred when a door was opened and other times not. In the “not” cases the wind was coming down the flue or chimney.
In those cases, it became necessary for the person to get a chimney cap or flue cap. This allowed the byproducts of combustion to escape while keeping the wind from blowing out the pilot light. It is important, for troubleshooting purposes, to make note of conditions outside and when the problem occurs. In some places, when the wind is high like in the fall time, or during a bad storm with high winds. Someone slamming a door too hard can create a draft that will extinguish the pilot light.
Conclusion | Why Does My Pilot Light Keep Going Out
If you feel uncomfortable doing any of the things noted here call and HVAC service company or a plumber. Most plumbers deal with thermocouples and gas valves and can quickly and efficiently take care of the problem for you. The goal is to keep the pilot light lit and burning to provide ignition for the main burners. If you want to research other possibilities about converting to electronic ignition see our resources below. Thanks and happy heating!!
Why Does My Pilot Light Keep Going Out