Identifying a Faulty Pilot Light & What To Do

Gas-fueled appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, and gas fireplaces all have a small flame that stays lit called a pilot light. When the appliance is turned on and gas reaches the main burner, the pilot light ignites the gas to power the appliance and provide the necessary heat. Simply put, the pilot light is the part that combusts the fuel source.

If your furnace suddenly goes out or stops producing heat, there’s a good chance there’s a problem with your pilot light. Below are common signs and causes of a faulty pilot light.

It Was Blown Out

If your pilot light consistently goes out after being relit, you may have a draft or air source causing your pilot light to go out, especially if your appliance is near a window, doorway, or outside the house. Try reigniting the pilot light and observing it for a few minutes to see if the flame flickers or if you notice any airflow affecting the strength of the flame.

An Irregular Flame

If the flame of your pilot light is faint or flickering, you may need to find your pilot’s adjustment screw and increase the flame’s intensity. If it’s yellow instead of blue, you probably don’t have the pilot’s temperature correctly set, which may also send a bad signal to the thermocouple.

Something’s Wrong With the Thermocouple

If your pilot light is out entirely, it could be a problem with the safety component called the thermocouple. The thermocouple shuts off the gas flow when the pilot light goes out, preventing a dangerous buildup of unburned fuel. Sometimes your thermocouple becomes dirty from dust, or it simply fails due to normal wear and tear. Try cleaning the thermocouple first, and if that doesn’t work, it may need replacement.

The Pilot Tip Is Corroded

Just like the thermocouple, the pilot tip itself can become dirty or layered with soot. If it becomes corroded, the flow of gas from the fuel supply line will cease. Using a toothbrush or similar brush, gently scrub the tip of the pilot light and try relighting it.

When a Pilot Light Outage Is Dangerous

When your pilot light goes out, you may worry that gas is still coming from the supply line, which could cause a dangerous buildup of natural gas. Should the pilot light be relit in that scenario, there could be a severe explosion. Modern appliances, however, have failsafe electrical shut-off valves to prevent this from happening. Any time the pilot goes out, it should cut the gas flow immediately. Of course, this safety valve could malfunction or fail, even if the chances of that are improbable.

When working with natural gas, be aware of strong odors that may signify a leak or buildup. If you notice a sulfur or rotten egg smell, do not try to relight the pilot. Instead, find the gas shut-off valve and turn off the gas immediately. If you’re unable to shut off the gas, leave your home with loved ones and pets and call 911 and your gas company for assistance.

Call the Experts at Blind & Sons

If you’ve tried to address the issue on your own, or if you’re uncomfortable working with natural gas, call in the professionals like those at Blind and Sons. Our technicians have the right tools and expertise to assess and repair your pilot light and appliance safely.

For questions about your pilot light or other HVAC services, contact us online or call us at 330-753-7711. 

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