How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your water heater’s pilot light goes out and you’re left scratching your head, wondering how to relight it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Understanding how to safely light a pilot light on a water heater is a valuable skill that can save you time and money. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process step-by-step, ensuring that you can confidently relight your pilot light with ease. So, let’s dive in and get your water heater up and running again!

Understanding Pilot Lights in Water Heaters

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of lighting a pilot light, let’s take a moment to understand their significance in water heaters. Pilot lights serve as a small flame that ignites the main burner whenever hot water is needed. They are commonly found in gas-powered water heaters and play a vital role in maintaining a consistent supply of hot water. While some modern water heaters come with automatic ignition systems, many older models still rely on pilot lights. Let’s explore the different types of water heaters and the pros and cons of using pilot lights.

Safety Precautions Before Lighting a Pilot Light

Safety should always be your top priority when it comes to dealing with gas-powered appliances. Before attempting to light a pilot light, it’s crucial to take certain precautions to ensure your well-being. Here’s a checklist of safety measures you should follow:

  1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions: Familiarize yourself with the water heater’s manual, as different models may have specific guidelines.

  2. Turn off the gas supply: Locate the gas shut-off valve near the water heater and ensure it is turned off before proceeding.

  3. Allow time for gas dissipation: After turning off the gas supply, give it a few minutes to allow any accumulated gas to dissipate before attempting to relight the pilot light.

  4. Inspect for gas leaks: Before proceeding, perform a quick check for any gas leaks using a solution of soapy water. Apply the solution to the gas connections and watch for bubbles. If you notice any bubbles forming, there may be a leak, and you should seek professional assistance.

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By following these safety precautions, you can minimize the risks associated with handling pilot lights and ensure a safe environment.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater

Now that you’ve taken the necessary safety measures, let’s walk through the step-by-step process of lighting a pilot light on a water heater. By following these instructions carefully, you’ll be able to relight your pilot light confidently:

  1. Locate the pilot light assembly: Typically, the pilot light assembly is located near the bottom of the water heater. It is usually marked and can be accessed by removing a small panel.

  2. Turn the gas control valve to “Off”: Locate the gas control valve on the water heater and turn it to the “Off” position. This ensures that no gas is flowing while you work on lighting the pilot light.

  3. Wait for gas dissipation: Give the gas inside the water heater a few minutes to dissipate before proceeding. This will help eliminate any lingering gas fumes.

  4. Set the gas control valve to “Pilot”: Turn the gas control valve to the “Pilot” position. This will allow gas to flow to the pilot light assembly.

  5. Press and hold the reset button: Locate the reset button near the pilot light assembly and press it down. While holding the reset button, position a lit match or a long-barreled lighter at the pilot burner.

  6. Light the pilot burner: Once the match or lighter is in position, carefully ignite the pilot burner by bringing the flame close to it. The pilot light should catch fire, producing a steady flame.

  7. Keep the reset button pressed: Continue to hold the reset button for about one minute to ensure the pilot light remains lit. This allows the thermocouple, a safety device, to heat up and signal the gas valve to stay open.

  8. Turn the gas control valve to “On”: After a minute, release the reset button and turn the gas control valve to the “On” position. This will allow gas to flow to the main burner.

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Congratulations! You’ve successfully relit the pilot light on your water heater. If the pilot light fails to stay lit or you encounter any issues during the process, it’s recommended to seek the assistance of a professional plumber.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Can I relight the pilot light if I smell gas?

A: No, if you smell gas, it’s important to leave the area immediately and contact your gas supplier or a licensed professional. Gas leaks can be hazardous and should be dealt with by experts.

Q: How often should I relight the pilot light?

A: If your pilot light frequently goes out, it may indicate a deeper issue with the water heater. It’s advisable to have a professional inspect your water heater to identify and address any underlying problems.

Q: Can I use a candle to light the pilot light?

A: No, it’s recommended to use a long-barreled lighter or a lit match. Candles are not designed for this purpose and may pose a safety risk.


In this guide, we’ve covered the essential steps to safely light a pilot light on a water heater. By taking the necessary safety precautions, following the step-by-step instructions, and seeking professional help when needed, you can confidently relight your pilot light and ensure a consistent supply of hot water. Remember, always prioritize safety and consult a professional if you encounter any difficulties during the process. Now, go ahead and tackle that pilot light with confidence!

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