How To Light Your Water Heater
The Pilot On A Gas Heater Can Go Out
You come to your Berkeley home from a long day to get a hot shower, but after getting undressed and going into the shower, you're only getting cold water from the faucet.
This couldn’t happen at a worse time, but this is something that is common with gas heaters because of the fact that they have a pilot that can go out at any time.
The pilot is supposed to stay lit, but there may be problems with the heater that is causing the pilot to go out, and this problem has to be addressed if the pilot is going to stay lit once it’s relit.
Some may have a pilot that continues to go out right after it’s lit, and this can be the cause of low gas pressure, a gas valve that’s malfunctioning, a problem with the thermocouple, or the water heater itself may have other issues.
Before troubleshooting the problem, it’s best to go through the necessary steps to ensure that the relighting process for the pilot is a safe one.
Safety Should Be The First Concern
First, approach the heater to determine if the pilot is out, and this can easily be seen if the access panel for the pilot is opened, and no light or fire is seen coming from the pilot itself. If there is no access panel for the pilot, then it’s likely behind a glass case that allows visual of the pilot only.
Either way, if the pilot is out, then it’s first necessary to turn off the gas. There is a knob that should be in the “on” position, so it should be turned to the “off” position for safety purposes.
For the safety of everyone in the Berkeley home, make sure that no gas has been leaking from the heater, especially if the pilot has been out for a while and cold water is already coming from the heater.
If the water is cold, then the pilot has been off for some time, and in all that time it’s possible that the gas could have been leaking.
Generally, the thermocouple will sense the heat from the pilot, and if it goes out, then the gas cuts off automatically, but this doesn’t always happen, especially when there is a problem with the thermocouple.
You’ll be able to determine gas leaks by the smell because it’s something that cannot be missed, especially since it will smell like rotting eggs. A faint smell of gas might be in the air if the access panel for the pilot is opened, but other than that, there shouldn’t be any hissing sounds or a strong smell of gas.
If a gas leak is present, then after turning off the gas valve, it’s necessary to contact the company that supplies the gas, especially since it can cause a fire hazard.
When no leaking of gas is present, then it’s best to go about contacting a plumber to come out to relight the pilot, especially since there are several steps involved and maintenance or repair may be needed.
Tips On Relighting The Pilot
The very first thing that should be done before anything else is to turn off the gas valve to the heater.
This valve should be located just above the temperature gauge, which is the next thing to look at.
The temperature gauge needs to be turned to the lowest setting on the gauge, and also, observe if there is a regulator valve in the same general area. There should be instructions that are close to these gauges, allowing the person who’s going to relight the pilot to know exactly what the gauges are for and how to use them.
Additional instructions on relighting the pilot should be available on the heater or may be behind a door or panel that can be opened to readily show the instructions. After the gas is cut off to the heater, then allow a minimum of 10 minutes before proceeding with any other instructions, just to let the air clear of any gas fumes.
The model of the heater will determine if a wand lighter needs to be used to relight the pilot or if the igniter that’s built into the heater can relight the pilot on its own. Those that have a pilot that can be seen and accessed through a panel need to first examine the pilot.
The pilot may have dirt and debris around it, and this can be something that clogs the pilot, which may have made it go out in the first place. It’s best to clean the pilot as thoroughly as possible before attempting to relight it with a flame.
Make sure no flammable debris is around the pilot because this in itself is a big fire hazard. Those having trouble seeing the pilot may need to get a flashlight for some extra visibility. Refer back to the gas knob as well as the regulator valve. These two are important in the next steps. After getting the wand lighter, kneel down next to the access panel for the pilot, and use the other hand to turn the gas valve to the “pilot” setting.
Having the valve on the pilot setting will start the process of relighting the pilot. If necessary, the regulator valve may be pushed down to send gas to the pilot, but in some cases, the gas valve might be able to be pushed down to complete the same process.
Use the wand lighter to light the pilot, but keep the valve or button pushed down for an entire minute to keep the pilot lit. The pilot should stay lit after the button or the valve is released, and then it’s good to go.
The access panel for the pilot light should then be closed, and then focus on turning the main burner back on, which is done by turning the gas valve back to the “on” position. After the gas is turned back on, it will start to heat the water again, so set the temperature gauge on the heater to 120°F, which is a recommended temperature and shouldn’t go beyond this.
If problems are experienced when trying to relight the pilot, it could be that the pilot is clogged or very dirty, so clean it again if necessary, and then try the relighting process once more.
Plumbers Can Do Water Heater Repair
Some water heaters that have problems with keeping the pilot lit may need repair. The water heater repair may mean replacing the thermocouple, which may be the main reason why the pilot is having trouble staying lit.
A plumber will be able to determine if any other problems exist with the heater when they start examining it, whether it’s to do repairs or simple maintenance.
Take note that having the heater maintained on a yearly basis is the best way to avoid any problems with it, so make sure to get a plumber out every year to help avoid needing repairs later.
Quality repairs for your water heater is available through Albert Nahman Plumbing and Heating in the Berkeley, CA area, just call (510) 843-6904.