What Causes Pilot Light to Go Out on Water Heater & How to Fix It

The pilot light going out on a water heater is typically caused by a faulty thermocouple or insufficient air supply. This problem can arise due to various factors, including improper venting, dirty or damaged components, or issues with the heater’s main control.

Drafty conditions, especially on windy days, can lead to a water heater pilot light repeatedly going out. In such scenarios, the draft disrupts the pilot light, extinguishing it due to a lack of stable combustible air supply. This issue is more pronounced in older models or water heaters placed in draft-prone areas.

Pilot light problems can also occur due to a malfunctioning thermostat or a compromised heating element. These issues prevent the pilot light from staying lit, often requiring professional repair or part replacement.

In some cases, the problem might not be with the thermocouple, indicating other underlying issues such as poor electrical wiring, a faulty main control valve, or problems with the flex tube.

For new water heaters experiencing pilot light issues, it’s advisable to check for installation errors or manufacturing defects. Sometimes, a simple reset of the water heater can resolve pilot light problems.

However, if the pilot light goes out after adjusting the temperature control dial, it might indicate a deeper issue with the temperature regulation mechanism.

4 Reasons Why the Pilot Light Go Out on Water Heaters & Their Fixes

Pilot lights on water heaters can go out for various reasons, each requiring a specific approach to fix. Understanding these causes and their solutions is crucial for maintaining the safety and efficiency of your water heater.

1. Faulty Thermocouple

The thermocouple is a safety device that detects whether the pilot light is lit. If it malfunctions, it may inaccurately sense that the pilot light is out and shut off the gas flow, causing the pilot light to go out.

To fix this, first, ensure that the thermocouple is positioned correctly in the pilot flame. If repositioning doesn’t work, cleaning the thermocouple with fine sandpaper might help by removing any build-up that obstructs its function.

If these steps do not resolve the issue, replacing the thermocouple is likely necessary.

2. Drafts or Wind

Exposure to drafts or wind can blow out the pilot light. This is common in water heaters installed in drafty locations.

To address this, inspect the area around the water heater for sources of drafts, such as open windows, doors, or poorly sealed vents. Eliminating these drafts by sealing gaps or relocating the water heater to a less drafty area can prevent the pilot light from going out.

Installing a wind shield can offer protection against gusts that might extinguish the pilot light.

3. Dirty Pilot Tube

Over time, the pilot tube can accumulate dirt and debris, leading to a weak or unsteady flame that may go out. Cleaning the pilot tube is essential in this case.

Turn off the gas supply and disassemble the pilot light assembly. Use a needle to gently remove any debris from the pilot tube. Blowing compressed air through the tube can also help clear any blockages. After cleaning, reassemble the unit and relight the pilot light.

4. Inadequate Gas Pressure

Low gas pressure can cause the pilot light to go out, as there isn’t enough fuel to keep it lit. This can stem from issues with the gas line or the utility company.

To resolve this, first, check other gas appliances in your home to see if they are also affected. If they are, contact your gas supplier to check for problems with your service.

If only the water heater is affected, inspect the gas line leading to the heater for kinks or leaks and address any found issues.

is it dangerous if the pilot light goes out on water heater

Safety Risks of an Extinguished Pilot Light

The question of whether it’s dangerous if the pilot light goes out on a water heater is pivotal for household safety. The primary concern is the potential for gas leaks.

When the pilot light goes out, gas may continue to flow into the combustion chamber without ignition. This unburnt gas can accumulate, leading to a hazardous situation if it finds an ignition source, possibly causing a fire or explosion.

Moreover, an extinguished pilot light can signify deeper issues within the water heater system, such as a faulty gas valve or thermocouple problems. These defects not only hinder the proper functioning of the water heater but can also contribute to safety risks.

An unlit pilot light means the water heater ceases to function, resulting in a lack of hot water. This can be particularly inconvenient during colder months or for essential daily activities.

To ensure safety, it’s crucial to regularly inspect the pilot light and address any issues immediately. If you find the pilot light out, turn off the gas supply to the heater and ventilate the area to disperse any accumulated gas.

Before relighting the pilot, investigate the cause of the extinguishment. If unsure, seek assistance from a qualified technician who can diagnose and repair any underlying problems, ensuring the safe and efficient operation of your water heater.

Read Also: Does the Water Heater Affect the Heat in the House?

Insightful Queries on Pilot Light Issues

Why Does My Pilot Light Go Out During Cold Weather?

Cold weather can affect the pilot light on a water heater. Low temperatures can cause contraction in the metal components of the gas delivery system, leading to gas flow issues that make it difficult for the pilot light to stay lit. Ensuring proper insulation of the water heater and its components can mitigate this issue.

Can Water Heater Age Cause Pilot Light Problems?

Yes, the age of a water heater can contribute to pilot light problems. As a water heater ages, components like the thermocouple and pilot tube wear out or become less effective. Regular maintenance and timely replacement of worn parts can prolong the life of your water heater and maintain pilot light stability.

Does Water Quality Affect the Pilot Light on My Heater?

Hard water, containing high mineral content, can lead to sediment buildup in the water heater tank. This buildup can indirectly affect the pilot light by impacting the overall efficiency and operation of the heater. Flushing the tank periodically to remove sediment can help maintain the heater’s proper functioning.

Is It Normal for the Pilot Light to Change Colors?

A pilot light should typically burn blue. If it changes color, particularly to yellow or orange, it indicates incomplete combustion, possibly due to dirt or an improper air-to-gas ratio. This issue warrants inspection, as it can lead to inefficient heater operation and the production of harmful gases.

Learn More: What Causes Hot Water Heater Reset Button to Trip & What to Do?