What You Should Do If Your Furnace or Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Oct 29, 2018

When your water heater or furnace pilot light keeps going out and won’t stay lit, their heating components won’t work, leaving you with cold water or a chilly home. While pilot lights used to be a common component of natural gas or propane appliances, they’ve fallen out of favor due to their lack of safety and inefficiency. As a result, it’s best to replace any device with a pilot light instead of trying to fix it or reignite it yourself.

Find out more about why pilot lights are a problem and some alternatives you can use instead.

The Problem With Pilot Lights

Burner Pilot Light

Since pilot lights can be very dangerous, you should never try to reignite the pilot light on your own. Instead, it’s often best to replace your furnace or water heater with a newer option that doesn’t use a pilot light. If you’re on the fence about replacing your furnace or water heater, find out more about the main problems with pilot lights below: 

1. Dangerous Gases

A pilot light is connected to a gas line that keeps it continuously aflame. When a pilot light won’t stay lit, gas can still escape from the pipe and spread into your home. Pilot lights have a safety valve that should cut the gas when the light goes out. If the valve is functioning properly, it will close, and gases won’t escape. 

However, if the valve isn’t working, your home may be filling with dangerous gas. Natural gas and propane are odorless, but gas companies typically add a sulfur compound to make it smell. However, the sulfur may be difficult to detect, especially if it’s cold out or the gas pipes are rusty.

2. Potential Explosions

Even if the amount of gas leaking from the unlit pilot light isn’t enough to make you sick, it could cause an explosion if some other form of heat energy is introduced. This risk of a potential explosion is one of the main reasons we don’t recommend a DIY approach if your pilot light won’t stay lit. 

In fact, Nationwide Insurance cites extinguished pilot lights as one of the top fire hazards in your home. Since a cigarette lighter or even just static electricity could be enough to cause a fire or an explosion in your home, it’s worth repeating: don’t try to relight your pilot light.

3. Wasted Energy

Although energy inefficiency isn’t going to kill you or burn your house down, it’s still a good reason to replace an appliance if the pilot light won’t stay lit. Since pilot lights are constantly on, even when they’re not being used, your furnace or water heater will use energy less efficiently and cause your furnace to have a lower AFUE rating

This lack of energy efficiency has a direct impact on your energy bills each month. For example, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors states that pilot lights waste more than 20% of the gas used in America. One mathematician found that keeping two pilot lights on indefinitely cost him an additional $170 every year, or $14 each month. In his words, “That’s a lot of burritos!”

The 3 Main Pilot Light Alternatives

With the exception of fireplaces and gas stoves, most modern appliances have done away with pilot lights altogether. Instead of trying to reignite your pilot light, speak to an HVAC professional about replacing your furnace or water heater’s pilot light with one of these safer alternatives:

  • Piezoelectricity: Piezoelectricity uses pressure to generate a spark.
  • High-voltage electricity: High-voltage electricity initiates an electrical arc between electrodes near the gas flow.
  • Hot-surface ignitors: Hot-surface ignitors use a durable conducting material to provide the necessary heat.

Do I Really Have to Replace My Pilot Light With an Alternative? Should I Do the Same for My Stove or Fireplace’s Pilot Light?

While you can find websites that will give you instructions on how to relight your pilot light, it simply isn’t worth the risk to your body or home. The same principle applies to gas fireplaces or stoves with a pilot light that won’t stay lit.

Due to the potential for toxic gas to escape, it is dangerous if a pilot light goes out on a gas stove or fireplace. As a result, you’ll likely want to replace your gas fireplace or stove with a new one that doesn’t rely on a pilot light.

Turn to Newcomb and Company for Pilot Light Replacement Services in Raleigh

If your pilot light isn’t working properly, turn to Newcomb and Company for pilot light replacement services in Raleigh. Once you call us, our team can find out why your furnace or water heater’s pilot light isn’t working. After we discover the problem’s source and ensure your home is safe, we’ll help you find the best alternatives to pilot lights. Once you pick one of the alternatives, we’ll install it for you, making sure it’s installed correctly and safely.

Find out more about our other HVAC repair solutions today. If you have any questions or want to replace your pilot light, please contact us.

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