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July 10, 2023

What Causes Pilot Lights to Go Out on Water Heaters?

Few aspects of a water heater are more essential than pilot lights. However, sometimes they go out and prevent your water heater from operating correctly. Unfortunately, many Greenwood residents don’t know what causes pilot lights to go out on water heaters or why they are so important.

That’s why Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing put together a guide to teach you why pilot lights go out on water heaters and why it’s important for them to stay lit. 

Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing is Greenwood’s reliable water heater service. We offer exceptional water heater repair, replacement, and maintenance services and will help your unit be the best it can be at a price that fits your budget. If you need an experienced heating and cooling company in Greenwood, IN, contact Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing.

What Is a Pilot Light?

A pilot light is a small flame that ignites gas coming from the water heater’s main burner and gas valve. It also warms the water heater’s thermocouple, allowing the gas control valve to stay open. When a pilot light goes out, it can’t keep the gas lit, causing the unit to shut off. 

The pilot light must stay on for the water heater to operate, making it an essential part of the water heater’s makeup. Without it, your system can’t produce hot water, making everyday activities like showering incredibly unpleasant.

Why Do Pilot Lights Go Out?

Pilot lights blow out for several reasons. Some go out due to faulty mechanisms, while others experience excess condensation that extinguishes the flame. Fortunately, fixing pilot lights isn’t difficult once you know the source of the issue.

Continue on to learn what causes pilot lights to go out on water heaters.

Inadequate Ventilation or Airflow

Pilot lights need some ventilation to stay lit. Proper ventilation allows air to flow through the space, helping the pilot light stay on. Reduced airflow can cause a pilot light to go out and turn off the water heater.

If your pilot light won’t stay on, check the unit’s vents to ensure they aren’t clogged. Sometimes dust and debris can clog a water heater’s vent and prevent the air from reaching the pilot light. Cleaning the system’s vents will ensure proper airflow and keep the pilot light lit.

It’s important to note that too much airflow can also blow out the pilot light. Drafts around the water heater’s base or down drafts due to fans can extinguish the pilot light, preventing the unit from supplying hot water to your home. 

Check your water heater closet for gaps or holes that allow air into the space. Sealing these holes will prevent strong winds from blowing out the pilot light, ensuring your home has warm water 24/7.

Excess Condensation

Many water heaters produce condensation that can drip off their tanks and into the pilot light tube, extinguishing the flame. This is extremely common in energy-efficient water heaters and models that haven’t been turned on in a long time. Other causes include:

  • The water heater is too small
  • The unit produces flu gasses at low temperatures
  • The water heater expels very cold water

Since water heaters produce condensation for various reasons, it’s best to contact a professional plumber to assess the unit and determine the cause of the issue.

A Dirty Pilot Tube

Pilot tubes supply gas from your property’s gas lines to the water heater’s pilot light so it can stay lit during operation. However, sometimes pilot tubes become dirty and prevent the gas from igniting the light. Dirt and debris can enter pilot tubes over time, causing vexing blockages that prevent combustion.

If your pilot light won’t stay on or ignite and you suspect a filthy pilot tube, turn off the gas and clean the tube. Use a needle to remove pollutants within the tube until it’s completely clear. 

Keep in mind that cleaning pilot tubes is extremely tedious and takes time. However, it’s an important process, so stay patient or hire someone to clean the tube for you.

Dirty Thermocouple

LIke dirty pilot tubes, filthy thermocouples can adversely affect the pilot light and prevent it from igniting. Excess grime can obstruct the electric current and prevent it from reaching the water heater’s thermocouple, cutting off the gas supply. Cleaning the thermocouple will give the current a clear route and ensure the pilot light has plenty of gas.

Before cleaning your water heater’s thermocouple, turn off the main gas supply valve and give the thermocouple time to cool. Once it’s cool, use sandpaper to scrub excess grime off the thermocouple and restore your unit’s performance. 

It’s important to keep the thermocouple level and in the same position to prevent kinks or bends that can also extinguish the pilot light. Always ensure the thermocouple remains in place when cleaning its structure. 

A Faulty Flex Tube

A flex tube links the water heater’s gas controller to the burner. Since the burner contains the thermocouple and pilot light, a functional flex tube allows the pilot light to ignite. However, if the flex tube becomes clogged or damaged, it can’t supply gas to the burner, preventing the water heater from operating.

If you experience a flex tube issue, try straightening it and evaluate the tube for damage. Damaged flex tubes can cause gas leaks, making it crucial to maintain their structure.

Contact Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing for Professional Water Heater Repair and Replacement Services in Greenwood IN

If you want to know what causes pilot lights to go out on water heaters, contact Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing. Our team will fix your water heater and improve its performance so your home supplies hot water around the clock. Whether you need professional HVAC repair or want to know why rusty water is coming from the hot water heater, Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing has you covered.

Call Complete Comfort Heating, Air & Plumbing at (317) 768-0063 and schedule your appointment in Greenwood, IN, today!