Reasons Why Your Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Light

Pilot light not staying lit

Your water heater’s pilot light does more than simply ignite the gas. The water heater won’t be able to maintain internal temperatures without it. This will lead to the cooling-off of the water. If you have a natural gas or propane water heater, pilot light issues are one of the most common problems that you will come across. However, other types of water heaters including electric variants might not have a pilot light at all. Since the pilot light ignites the gas burner, a malfunction in it can lead to potential gas buildup or in worse cases, an explosion. Here are a few reasons for your water heater pilot light lighting up and some methods to troubleshoot it.

What Is A Pilot Light and How Does It Work?

Pilot light is a small flame that is used to ignite the burners of gas and propane fueled water heaters. The pilot lights stay lit at all times. At the point when the water heater needs to heat the water within the tank, (unlike on-demand tankless water heaters) the pilot light ignites the gas burner. without a pilot light, the water heater will not be able to ignite the burner hence, the water won’t get heated. After all, the first sign your pilot light is out is that your water does not heat up in the first place.

Signs Your Pilot Light Is Out

There are 3 ways to check if your water heater’s pilot light is out. Let us get in-depth knowledge regarding these signs to know if there’s something wrong with your pilot light –

1. Water Is Cold

The most basic indication that will tell you your pilot light is out is your hot water is no longer hot. If you are just getting cold water all the time or the water is not getting heat up at all, there’s a good chance that your pilot light has gone out. There might be also other reasons why you’re not getting hot water. However, if the problem is not the pilot light, you’ll need to do a bit more troubleshooting.

2. Blinking Light Or Error Message

Another important sign that you should not miss is blinking lights or error messages on the control panel on your unit. The control panel is usually located at the bottom of the unit with a light or two on it. That light may stay on, blink, or change colors as per different models, to indicate that something’s wrong. If you encounter a situation like this, check the manufacturer’s manual. However, in most of the heaters, there’s a sticker or key that gives you information about what do the different lights mean. If your light indicates the pilot light is out, know you’ve identified the issue.

3. You Can’t See the Flame

This will be your last step of visual inspection despite using the status light. After all, it is worth double-checking. The flame should be somewhere around the bottom of the unit. Look for a gap where you can see underneath it and you will find the flame. It is the easiest of all if you’ve checked there before and have seen the pilot light burning. If your status light indicates that it’s out and if you don’t see the flame burning, you’ve found the problem.

Causes Of Pilot Light Going Out

There are various reasons for a pilot light going out. Here are a couple of the more common causes:

1. Change In Gas Pressure

It is very common for the pilot light to go out if there’s a natural change in gas pressure. Although not often, it occurs once in a while, and relighting the pilot will help resolve the problem. If the pilot light is still out, something else is wrong with it.

2. Thermocouple Issues

A thermocouple is a safety device that shuts down the gas valve when the pilot light goes out. It senses if the pilot light has gone out and shuts off the gas supply to the flame for forestalling safety issues with your water heater. However, over time, thermocouples begin to malfunction if bent or dirty. This might lead to the shutting down of the pilot light even if it is functioning properly.

3. Lack Of Combustible Air

Water heaters along with other gas appliances require combustion air to operate effectively. In the case your unit is set up in a closet or in an area where it does not have access to air for combustion, the pilot light may get out of order. It might also be life-threatening as it leads to carbon monoxide build-up in your home. In such cases, it is highly recommendable to contact a professional to help you troubleshoot the problem.

4. Flame Was Blown Out

It’s possible that the pilot light can be blown out if you’re water heater doesn’t have a sealed combustion chamber. Since the pilot light is a small flame, it can be blown out easily if the heater is fitted in a drafty area.

How To Light A Pilot Light?

Lighting a pilot light is quite simple. But before turning on your pilot light back, ensure to check for gas leaks. If you turn on the pilot light and there happened to be a gas leak, it would cause an explosion. For making sure that there is no gas leakage, sniff around the pilot light area. You can proceed if you do not smell any gas. The general technique of lighting a pilot light involves looking for a knob with temperature settings and a notch that says, “Pilot” or “Pilot Light” on the access panel. Find that and the ignitor button right on the panel. Turn and hold the knob to “Pilot” and push the ignitor and wait for a click sound. You will also hear a “Whoosh” sound. Check the gap and underneath it, you should see the light on.

Can It Be Dangerous For The Pilot Light To Go Out?

In most cases, you should not be concerned if the pilot light goes out as modern gas-fueled water heaters have certain valves that close the supply of gas automatically when the pilot light gets extinguished. However, if your heater fails to do this, it would lead to a natural or propane gas leak ultimately leading to an explosion. The situation can be aggravated if the water heater is located in an enclosed space. Nevertheless, we highly recommend purchasing a carbon monoxide detector irrespective of where your water heater is located at. Carbon monoxide detectors are cheap and can be fitted just near your water heaters. They will help in alerting you when the carbon monoxide levels rise to unsafe levels.

You should also seek expert help if you notice your pilot light doesn’t stay lit. Brands including A.O Smith, Bradford White and Rheem are known deliver commendable service in this regard.


The aforementioned causes can be analyzed and remedied by anyone if they follow the given instructions.  However, there might be a possibility that the pilot light won’t stay lit even after you’ve tried all of these hacks. In such situations, call in a professional to examine the water heater entirely. Lastly, troubleshooting these basic issues of your water heater can help you restore your hot water supply and bring a sense of comfort back to your home.

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