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Introduction to Gas Water Heater Pilot Lights

Gas water heaters use natural gas or LPG to heat your water, relying on a pilot light to ignite the main burner. If this pilot light extinguishes, you’ll need to relight it to get your hot water running again.

This guide offers a straightforward, step-by-step process to safely relight your gas water heater’s pilot light. With these instructions, you’ll have hot water flowing again swiftly.

You’ll learn to access and prepare the pilot light assembly, ensure correct gas flow, ignite the pilot with a manual or electronic method, and test its functioning. Plus, you’ll find troubleshooting tips for common ignition problems.

Our aim is to empower you to relight your gas water heater’s pilot with ease, ensuring the quick return of your essential hot water supply.

Safety Precautions Before Relighting

Safety is crucial when relighting your gas water heater’s pilot light. Taking simple precautions can prevent mishaps and guarantee a seamless process.

Before getting started, do a thorough check of the area around your water heater:

  • Ensure there are no open flames present, such as candles or gas stoves, and refrain from activities like smoking.
  • Check that you cannot smell any gas in the vicinity of the appliance. A strong gas odour indicates a leak that needs to be addressed before relighting.
  • Clear a wide workspace around the heater free of rags, paper or other flammable materials.

To prevent unignited gas accumulation, it’s advised to turn off the gas supply at the mains or cylinder before relighting; then allow 5-10 minutes for any residual gas to dissipate.

Adhering to these safety measures is in line with best practices for handling gas appliances and helps ensure a successful relighting of your water heater’s pilot light.

Turning Off the Gas Supply

After checking for gas leaks and clearing the area around the water heater, the next step is to turn off the gas supply.

Locate the gas control valve for your hot water system. This is usually found near the bottom of the tank or on the gas line leading into the unit. The valve will look like a spigot or knob.

Carefully turn the gas control valve a quarter turn in either direction. This shifts the valve into the ‘off’ position, stopping gas flowing to the water heater.

Wait 2-3 minutes once you’ve turned off the gas. This allows any residual gas in the pipes to dissipate instead of building up.

With the gas supply now safely switched off, you can move on to the next stage - accessing the pilot light assembly.

Waiting for Unburnt Gas to Dissipate

After shutting off the gas supply, it’s crucial to wait 5-10 minutes before attempting to relight the pilot. This allows time for any unburnt gas lingering in the pipes or around the water heater to fully dissipate.

Gas that has not ignited can concentrate in an area over time when the pilot light is out. If you immediately attempt to relight while this gas is still present, it heightens the risk of ignition and explosion.

Allowing a waiting period of at least 5 minutes gives the gas time to completely clear. This safety step safeguards you against potential gas-related hazards when relighting the pilot.

Don’t rush the process. Always let the water heater sit for the recommended wait time so any unburnt gas can dissipate. This simple pause will reduce risks considerably, making relighting the pilot a safe procedure.

Accessing the Pilot Light Assembly

To access the pilot light, you’ll need to locate the access panel on your hot water system. Refer to your owner’s manual to identify where this is situated, as locations can vary between models.

On most gas water heaters, the access panel is near the base of the tank. It may be held closed by screws or clips. Carefully open the panel using your hand or a screwdriver.

If you cannot locate the access panel, check for a small viewing window instead. Some models allow the pilot light to be accessed through this window without needing to open the appliance.

Illuminate the pilot light assembly with a flashlight, usually identifiable as a small tube connected to the gas supply line.

Take care not to touch or damage any parts inside as you’re locating the pilot. Most pilots have printed lighting instructions visibly nearby to follow once access is gained.

Setting the Gas Control Valve to Pilot

The next step in relighting the pilot is to set the gas control valve to the ‘Pilot’ position. This setting allows gas to flow only to the pilot light tube, without opening the main burner supply.

On a basic gas control, this involves turning a knob or sliding a switch on the gas valve to the Pilot marking. Other more advanced electronic controls feature an igniter button instead.

Consult your water heater’s manual for specific instructions tailored to your model. There can be some variability between types of gas valves and control interfaces.

Typically, the gas control or nearby diagram will have words such as 'Off’, 'Pilot’, and 'On’. Make sure to set it to 'Pilot’ before continuing.

With the controller set to activate the pilot gas flow, you can move to the next step of lighting the pilot flame.

Lighting the Pilot

Learn to relight your gas water heater’s pilot light using either a manual technique or the built-in electronic igniter.

Manual Method

The manual process involves igniting the pilot with a long match or lighter after confirming gas is flowing to the component.

  1. Insert a long fireplace match or a butane lighter extension nozzle into the access opening.
  2. Position the tip of the match/lighter adjacent to the pilot tube opening.
  3. Strike the match or activate the lighter to create a flame.
  4. This flame ignites the gas flowing from the pilot, effectively helping to light pilot components.

Electronic Ignition

Many heaters have a push-button igniter installed on the gas valve to electronically light the pilot.

  1. Locate the igniter button on the gas control.
  2. Press the button firmly. You should hear a ‘click’ indicating the igniter is sparking.
  3. Continue depressing the button for 60-90 seconds. The sparks will light the gas from the pilot tube.
  4. Release the igniter button once the pilot flame remains steadily lit.

Consult the indicator light, if your water heater has one installed, to confirm successful ignition.

A constant flame indicates your pilot light is now re-lit. Proceed by testing its stability.

Manual Ignition Method

Manually lighting your gas water heater’s pilot requires careful attention to safety. This method involves igniting the pilot flame by hand using a long fireplace match or butane lighter nozzle.

Ensure you maintain a safe distance from the pilot chamber to avoid burns from flames and hot surfaces during this process.

  1. Insert a long match or butane lighter nozzle through the access opening and position the tip near the pilot light tube.
  2. Strike the match or activate the lighter, then hold the flame to the end of the pilot tube for 60-90 seconds.
  3. This will ignite the gas flowing to the pilot assembly and establish a flame.
  4. Remove the lighter/match once the pilot flame remains lit without assistance.

When lighting the pilot manually, follow safety protocols rigorously, keeping clear of the heater’s interior throughout the process.

Electronic Ignition Method

Modern gas water heaters often include electronic ignition systems for lighting the pilot, providing a user-friendly alternative to the manual method.

Electronic ignition uses a push button igniter, typically located on the gas control valve. Follow these steps to relight with this method:

  1. Confirm the gas control is set to the ‘Pilot’ position.
  2. Locate the electronic igniter button on the valve.
  3. Firmly press and hold the button for 60-90 seconds. You should hear a distinct ‘clicking’ sound indicating the igniter is sparking.
  4. Continue depressing the button until the pilot flame ignites and remains steadily lit.
  5. Release the button once the flame is stable without needing to press the igniter.

If your model has an indicator light, it will confirm a successful ignition. Consult the manual for full instructions on electronic ignition.

With the pilot re-established, the next step is testing its stability before exiting the relight process.

Testing the Pilot Light

Once the pilot flame is lit, either manually or with an electronic igniter, confirm it stays lit to ensure a successful relighting.

Visually inspect that a steady pilot flame is present at the end of the pilot tube. Observe this flame for 2-3 minutes to ensure it continues burning consistently without going out.

If the flame is unstable or goes out during this test, relight it by repeating the lighting procedure to secure a constant pilot flame.

  1. Allow time for any unignited gas to clear if the flame went out, before attempting to re-light.

Once the pilot flame burns steadily, turn the gas control valve to 'On’. On conventional gas valves, rotate the dial clockwise to the On marker to enable gas flow to the main burner.

Set your hot water controller to the desired temperature.

You should hear the main burner ignite, signalling that the pilot relight task is finished and hot water service will return shortly.

Troubleshooting Pilot Light Issues

If the pilot flame goes out after relighting, consider these troubleshooting tips before reaching out to a professional.

Frequent pilot outages often stem from issues like:

  • Faulty thermocouple - This safety device should keep the pilot lit. If defective, replace it.
  • Thermostat problems - A worn out thermostat may fail to hold the pilot flame. Test or replace it.
  • Weak pilot flame - A dirty pilot tube or airflow issues can cause a weak flame. Clean the pilot assembly thoroughly.
  • Gas control defects - An error with the gas control valve itself may be preventing consistent flames.

If troubleshooting doesn’t resolve the issue and the flame still falters or goes out, a plumber should be contacted for a proper diagnosis.

A professional, with their specialised skill in identifying issues, can swiftly relight the pilot and ensure reliable hot water supply.

When to Call a Professional

While relighting your gas water heater’s pilot light is usually a straightforward DIY task, it’s important to know when to call for professional assistance.

If you’re unsure about how to relight a troublesome pilot after persistent outages and troubleshooting, and you smell gas or have safety concerns, it’s time to seek a plumbing professional.

Our licenced gas fitters at Marrickville Plumbing boast a wealth of experience in servicing and repairing water heaters across Marrickville and surrounding areas.

Contact us at 1300 349 338 or through jobs@marrickvilleplumbingservices.com.au for a same-day appointment.

Leveraging our in-depth knowledge, we’ll ensure your hot water reliability and offer appliance replacement advice if needed for your safety.

Contact us for swift assistance - your comfort and safety with gas appliances is our utmost priority.

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