Why the Gas Hot Water Heater Pilot Light Keeps Going Out and Won’t Stay Lit?

Top 10 Reasons Your Water Heater Pilot Light Keeps Going Out

Why Does Your Water Heater Keep Going Out Randomly and Won’t Stay Lit?

A hot water heater’s pilot light frequently going out is a common issue. This blog post covers the top 10 reasons for this problem and provides effective solutions to permanently fix it. Read on for expert tips on how to solve the problem of a gas water heater pilot light that doesn’t stay lit.

πŸ”₯ What is a Pilot Light and How Does It Work?

A pilot light is a small, constantly burning flame in gas appliances like furnaces and water heaters, used to ignite the main fuel source, typically natural gas or propane. Designed with safety in mind, it has features like manual shut-off and sensors to stop gas flow if necessary. The pilot light heats a thermocouple, creating an electric current that keeps the gas valve open for continuous fuel supply, ensuring the main burner stays lit until manually turned off.

pilot light and thermocouple inside a water heater

πŸ›‘ Safety Precautions When Working on a Water Heater

water heater repair

Adhering to safety precautions when working on a water heater is crucial. It prevents accidents and injuries from heat and gas, ensures secure connections to avoid leaks and hazards, and extends the heater’s lifespan by preventing damage from improper use.

  • Before beginning any work, turn off the power and gas shutoff valves.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves and goggles when working with hot water.
  • Make sure all connections are properly tightened to avoid gas leaks.
  • Use a step ladder when necessary to reach high places.
  • Unplug the water heater’s power cord before disconnecting the wiring.
  • Keep children and pets away from the area while you are working on the water heater.

πŸ’§ What Are The Reasons My Water Heater Pilot Light Keeps Going Out?

water heater pilot light repair

The reasons why your pilot light keeps going out are numerous. Diagnosing and addressing pilot light problems adequately is essential so your water heater does not suffer from further damage or cause any safety risks.

Taking the time to investigate and address the root of the problem will help ensure that you can enjoy consistent hot water for years to come.

🧰 1. Dirty Pilot Tube

It’s not uncommon for water heaters to experience this issue. But don’t worry- it’s usually caused by dirt or debris clogging the pilot tube, which supplies gas for the pilot light’s combustion process.

If the tube is partially blocked, it may not be able to provide enough gas for a sustained flame, so the pilot light’s flame will keep going out as a result. Taking the time to unblock that tube can help avoid further issues and ensure your heater works as expected.

🧰 2. Lack of Combustible Air

A failing pilot light could be due to insufficient combustible air. Your water heater needs plenty of fresh air to keep the pilot light flame burning properly. Ensure there is nothing blocking airflow, such as clutter or other debris. Maintain a clean area around the hot water heater for best results.

🧰 3. Pilot Flame is Too Small

The pilot light in a gas water heater may be too small due to low gas pressure. Ask your gas company if they are providing the right amount of fuel – it could be that the problem lies within the water heater itself.

A clogged pilot light tube could also contribute, caused by dirt getting into the system from the gas line. Installing a dirt trap can help alleviate this issue though this should only be done by a qualified professional.

Also, by consulting the manufacturer’s instructions, check that you have the correct sized burner orifice. Finally, remember that the flame should always be blue, and ensure the storage tank is full before ignition.

🧰 4. Pilot Flame is Too Large

A pilot light that is too large or out of control could result from high gas pressure, which can be due to a problem on the part of the gas company. If you suspect this is the problem, call your local gas company.

Additionally, check that you have the right-sized burner orifice. Ensuring you have the correct-sized burner orifice for your water heater for optimal performance is vital. If the pilot orifice’ size is too large, it can cause the pilot flame to be too high and unstable. This decreases the lifespan of your water heater and can also be a safety hazard.

Furthermore, having an incorrect-sized burner orifice will result in lower efficiency and higher fuel bills. Thus, ensuring the right-sized burner orifice is essential for protecting your wallet and safety.

🧰 5. A Dirty Thermocouple

The thermocouple is your water heater’s brain, controlling the gas flow if it senses the pilot light has gone out. When the pilot light is lit, it creates an electric current, which triggers the gas valve to close if the flame goes off. A layer of dirt and grime can prevent this electric current from reaching the thermocouple, leaving you without hot water on a cold morning.

To avoid this issue, regularly cleaning off any dirt and grime from your faulty thermocouple is essential. Taking a piece of sandpaper and carefully scrubbing away any residue should ensure your water heater keeps pumping out hot water.

🧰 6. A Kinked Thermocouple

Cleaning your thermocouple is only the first step. The following important task is to check its position and whether it has become kinked. The thermocouple must be relatively close to the pilot light to receive heat and generate an electric current.

If it’s too far away, no signal will be produced, and the gas valve will be closed, leading to a lack of hot water. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you should manually adjust and straighten the thermocouple so it slightly touches the blue flame of the pilot light.

🧰 7. A Broken Thermocouple

After cleaning and positioning your thermocouple, if you still find that the pilot light keeps going out, it could be that the thermocouple is broken.

To confirm this, run a diagnostic test with a multimeter to measure the voltage supplied by the thermocouple. The thermocouple millivolt reading should be approximately 30 millivolts (mV) with an error rate of plus or minus 5 mV. If your thermocouple is putting out less than 25 mV, we recommend replacing it.

However, if the reading is close to but not at 30mV, you can try moving the device closer to the pilot light before giving up on it completely.

🧰 8. Flex Tube Issues

The flex tube is a long tube that connects the gas controller to the gas burner where the pilot light and thermocouple are located.

If there are any kinks or visible damage to this piece, it could block the gas flow to the burner. If you don’t detect any issues with your thermocouple, you should straighten out any kinks on your flex tube and look for signs of gas leakage since this could be another reason why your water heater pilot light won’t stay lit.

🧰 9. A Faulty Main Control Valve

Checking the pilot light, thermocouple, and flex tubes should be your first step if your water pilot keeps going out. However, please don’t rule out a problem with the main gas control valve unit, as it may be the culprit. This component is a safety device responsible for regulating gas supply and water pressure.

If a fault occurs here, it can cause an unexpected closure of the gas valve and a weak flickering flame. Here are some possible signs of a faulty main control gas valve:

  • A pilot button that won’t pop up after pressing it
  • A faulty control knob
  • Hot water exceeding the specified temperature range

Unfortunately, there is no way to fix this part, so manufacturers advise replacing it to avoid potential recurring costs and damages caused by other components.

🧰 10. Poor Electrical Wiring

This is usually a problem associated with electric water heaters. If your water heater suddenly shuts down, this could indicate an electrical issue and should not be ignored. Switch off the device immediately and contact a technician for help. Don’t attempt to fix the wiring yourself unless you’re a qualified electrician.

🚿 Final Thoughts

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In this article, we’ve explored the common issues that can lead to water heater failures and offered guidance on when to tackle repairs and when to seek professional help. Understanding the root causes of water heater problems is crucial, but recognizing when a situation is out of your depth is equally important. For those instances, calling a professional plumber is the safest action to prevent further damage and ensure your plumbing system remains in top condition.

Phyxter Home Services stands out for its wealth of expertise and experience handling various plumbing issues. Our team is dedicated to providing high-quality information and practical solutions to homeowners. We encourage you to delve into our blog for more insightful articles on plumbing that can help you manage your home more effectively.

If you’re facing plumbing challenges beyond a simple fix, don’t hesitate to contact Phyxter Home Services. Let us be your go-to resource for all your plumbing needs, ensuring peace of mind and the longevity of your home’s plumbing system.

πŸ“— Related Reading: Hot Water Not Working But Cold Is? Here’s What You Need to Know

Russell Jones

Russell, a native Australian and VP of Operations at Phyxter Home Services, is also part-owner of Vernon Air Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electrical Services. When he's not busy with work projects and renovations, Russell enjoys putting his vast knowledge of home improvement to good use by sharing his tips and tricks.

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