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Is It Dangerous If The Pilot Light Goes Out On a Water Heater?

It has happened to all of us. We are taking a warm shower, getting ready for the day, and all of a sudden, the water turns ice cold on us. It is not a pleasant experience and can easily ruin any morning. And often the culprit is the pilot light on the water heater. 

While it is not dangerous for the pilot light to go out on your water heater, it can make for a cold experience. When your pilot light does go out, you simply need to go down to the water heater and relight it. This will help warm up the water again for you to use it. Let’s learn more about the pilot light, why it goes out, and how you can relight it. 

water heater pilot light

Is It Dangerous for the Pilot Light to Go Out?

The pilot light going out on a water heater is not dangerous, it simply leads to all the water in your home being cold. You do need to relight the pilot light if you wish to have hot water come back. Relighting it as soon as possible will ensure you get to enjoy all of the hot water you want. 

For most cases with your pilot light going out, you simply need to relight it and everything will warm up. Give it a little bit to rewarm the water before you try to take a hot shower, but that will usually solve any problem you have with the pilot light and your water heater. Most of the time this only happens once and the pilot light will stay on for a long time. However, if the light continues to go out often, then it is time to look for other problems that are causing this. 

The problem that can occur here is if you smell something like a rotten egg near the area of the water heater. This is a sign of a gas leak. Turn off the gas in your home and contact your gas company right away. If you tried to ignite the pilot light with that smell, you will get more of an explosion and someone can get hurt. 

Before you relight this pilot light though, it is a god idea to look around for clues as to why the pilot went out to start with. Sometimes the pilot light simply goes out without any provocation. However, if it stops burning because something is wrong with the water heater, you need to fix the problem or it will just happen again. 

Reasons My Pilot Light Went Out

Before you take the time to relight the pilot light, it is important to explore possible reasons the light went out in the first place. Sometimes it is as simple as a breeze blowing it out but sometimes there are costly issues that you need to fix in the water heater first. Some of the most common reasons your pilot light goes out in the water heater includes:

The Flame is Blown Out

The reason your pilot light went out could be as simple as a flame getting blown out. Some of the older heaters do not come with a sealed chamber for the pilot light, which means the flame will not have any protection from the wind around it. This can be the likely source if your water heater is close to a drafty door or window. 

The Thermocouple is Bent or Dirty

The thermocouple is there to sense whether your pilot light is on or off. If this light does go out, the thermocouple is designed to turn the pilot light off so dangerous fumes are not able to build up. However, over time, it is possible for dirt to build up on the thermocouple and can make it harder to sense that your pilot light is light. This may result in it turning off all gas to the pilot light and the pilot light not working. 

In some cases, this happens when things get a little bit bent in the process. It will cause the same issue as the dirt building up. Luckily this is an easy thing to fix. You just need to bend it back to where it was or clean it off and the pilot light should work just fine again. 

There Isn’t Any Combustible Air

If you place the water heater in an area that is really enclosed, it is possible the pilot light does not have enough air to help it stay lit. all fire needs some oxygen to keep on burning. Without this air, it is possible that the pilot light will go out. There is an added problem here because that will lead to buildup of carbon monoxide too. 

The Thermocouple is Broken

If you look at the thermocouple is bent or dirty, this is a sign that you need a new one. These devices can last for quite a long time, but they can go out occasionally. When the thermocouple is not working well, it will continue to turn off the supply of gas to the pilot light. This makes the light go out all of the time for no reason. Call a professional to help replace this part and get your pilot light to work well again. 

How to Relight the Pilot Light

Now that we know a few of the main reasons why the pilot light goes out, it is time to learn how to relight it. If you go into the room where your water heater is located and do not smell any gas or rotten egg smell, it is time to relight the pilot light. The steps to follow to make this process easy include:

  1. Reset the thermostat so it is on the lowest setting possible. 
  2. Turn the switch for the pilot light so it is on the pilot position. 
  3. Take the panels of the water heater so you can reach the pilot light wherever it is located. 
  4. Hold down the pilot button or the ignite button. While that is held down, you would use a long match or a lighter to help relight the flame. Not all water heaters have this button though. If you do not see it, you can light the flame without pressing down on anything. 
  5. Once the flame is lit, you should continue to hold onto the pilot or ignite button for a minute to help the flame keep burning. You want the flame to be a bright blue color. 
  6. Now you can turn the setting back to on and get everything back to the exact positions they were before. 
  7. Add the access panels back on and pick the thermostat to the temperature it was before. 

And that is all there is to it. You can easily get the pilot light restarted in just a few minutes all on your own and have the warm water that you want. If this does not work, or it feels like you are relighting the pilot light often, then it is time to call in a professional to take a look at the pilot light and see if there is something you need to get fixed. 

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