Re-lighting a water heater’s pilot light

If you hop in the shower and a stream of cold water comes out of the faucet, it could very well mean that you used up all the hot water in your water heater.

Or it could simply mean your water heater’s pilot light is out – which luckily is an easy fix.

Read on to learn why your pilot light may have gone out, and more importantly, how to re-light it!

Why your pilot light went out

Water heaters that are fueled by gas and propane use blue flames to ignite their burners, which are called pilot lights. However, there are a few reasons why this small flame can go out from time to time.

One common reason is dirt around the area where the pilot light is. It’s easy to tell when it’s dirty because the flame will be orange and yellow instead of blue. It will also be moving back and forth, instead of shooting upward in a pillar.

There could also be problems with your thermocouple, or flame sensor. Dirt could also be the issue, or it could be bent or broken.

If the thermocouple is dirty, the first thing you need to do is turn off your main gas supply. Once the thermocouple is cool, grab a piece of sandpaper and use it to clean off the dirt and buildup.

If you need a new thermocouple, they are easy to find at your local hardware store and usually cost around $15. Your local plumber can help you install it.

Locating the pilot light -- and how to turn it back on

First of all, make sure that the pilot light is actually the problem. Check the water heater’s control panel to see if there’s an indication that the light is out. Or look beneath the heater to see if you can see the blue flicker of the pilot light flame.

If you’ve confirmed that it is out, follow these steps:

1. Find the water heater’s access panel, which is typically located under the gas valve.

2. Look for the heater’s gas burner. It will be inside the heater, with two gas tubes leading into it.

3. Find the gas knob, then turn it toward the label that says pilot, pressing down on it.

4. As you’re holding down the knob, light the pilot light. You might see a button to do so, or you might have to use a lighter, preferably with a long handle. Once the flame is lit, hold down the button for about a minute to make sure it is staying lit.

5. Turn the gas knob to on to ignite the main burner.

6. Close the access panel.

After you follow those steps, you should once again have hot water! And if not—contact your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing online or by calling 1-877-BEN-1776.