How to Relight Your Water Heater’s Pilot Light

Have you turned on your hot water faucet and noticed that the water isn’t warming up? If you have a gas water heater, there’s a good chance the pilot light has gone out. Reigniting the light can be easily done on your own. In this article, we will provide steps to help you relight the pilot light on your water heater safely.

First, Carefully Examine Your Water Heater

  1. Look to the bottom of your water heater and remove the access panel to check that the pilot light is actually out—if you do not see a small flame burning, then the pilot light has gone out. (Note: Newer model water heaters might not have a removable panel, but a glass you can see through instead.)
  2. Before doing anything else, make sure there is no leaking gas—take a moment to see if you smell anything unusual while standing up or hear any hissing sounds. Then, kneel down and sniff around the bottom and side of the water tank. Natural gas is naturally odorless, but gas companies add a substance (mercaptan) to make it smell like sulfur or rotten eggs, so it’s more detectable by humans. If you smell sulfur or rotten eggs in either place (even a slight smell), do not attempt to light the pilot light. Instead, leave the area of the water heater and call the gas company immediately. They’ll instruct you on how to proceed.
  3. No smell or hissing sounds? Then it’s safe to proceed. Check the inside door panel for specific instructions on how to relight a pilot light.
  4. Go to the temperature controls, generally located on the front of a box on the outside of the water heater, and set the temperature to the lowest setting.
  5. Locate the regulator valve (usually located on the same box as the temperature control—this regulates the gas flow to the pilot burner beneath the hot water tank). Turn the knob to the “OFF” position. Wait 10 minutes before proceeding to allow any residual gas from the tank to clear from the air.
  6. What style of water heater do you have?
    1. Old: The older water heater models will require you to use your own flame to relight the pilot—use a wand style lighter or fireplace matches for length
    2. New: The newer style water heaters come equipped with a pilot light igniter
  7. If you have to manually relight the pilot, locate it before starting the flame. The pilot is located at the end of the small silver tube that comes out of the control valve.

Once you know exactly what style water heater you have and where the pilot light is, it’s time to get down to business.

Steps for Relighting the Pilot Light On A Water Hater

  1. Push down and turn the gas valve to the “PILOT” setting—this starts the flow of gas into the tube that supplies the pilot light. (If the gas valve does not push down, look for a red control button near the valve and hold this button down.)
  2. While holding down the pilot gas valve, or the red button, with one hand, you’ll use your other hand to light the pilot light. You will probably need a second person to hold the flashlight so you can look into the water heater:
    1. New: Press the built-in ignition switch—there will be a clicking sound until the pilot burner lights.
    2. Old: Apply your match or wand lighter to the pilot burner.
  3. Continue holding down the gas valve for one minute after the pilot light has been lit.
  4. Release the valve/button and see if the pilot light remains lit.
  5. If the light stays lit, replace the access panel, then reignite the main burner (turn the main gas valve to “ON”).
  6. Adjust the temperature control to your desired setting. (120°F is the recommended temperature by the Consumer Product Safety Commission)

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Mister Quik!