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How to Relight a Pilot Light

Do furnaces have pilot lights? That depends. Gas furnaces come in two types. With older versions you can relight furnace pilot lights; however newer furnace types are equipped with electric which will ignite the gas. If you are an owner of a new furnace that has an electrical system, it will require a repair person in order to relight the furnace pilot light and it should not be attempted by someone who isn't qualified to fix it. If you have an older furnace with a pilot light, then the owner can relight it safely by themselves. To answer the question, do furnaces have pilot lights? Yes, older furnaces do.

  • Energy Tips – Michigan State University provides advice on how to choose the right furnace for your home.
  • Natural Gas PDF – This is a kid's page but it has some valuable information about natural gas such as how it's formed, where we get it, and how it's used.
  • Furnace Repairs – The Better Business Bureau offers great advice on how not to overspend or get ripped off when your furnace needs to be repaired.
  • Pilot Lights – The International Association of Home Inspectors offers information on pilot light safety and energy waste.
  • Water Heater Maintenance PDF – Here you can learn how hot water heaters work, energy-saving options, and how to (relight furnace pilot light).

Pilot lights are small flames that are kept lit that facilitates for a larger flame when it is needed. Pilot lights are commonly used in home appliances using petroleum or natural gas, such as older stoves, water heaters and heating furnaces. Pilot lights can also be found in hot air balloons. In general, pilot lights work by maintaining permanent flames at low levels. In some cases it may have a blue-colored glow to it. When more fuel gets added to the mixture, burners are ignited by the flame and a fire is created that is capable of completing a specific job such as cooking, heating air, or water. When the burners get turned off, pilot lights remain on.

Most of the time the flame is meant to stay on. However, there are times when it will go out, no matter if it's put out on purpose or goes out on accident. Relighting the pilot light is not a big deal but a careful precaution needs to be taken in order to relight it exactly as the directions specify. If not, it could be very dangerous. During summer months some may choose to turn off their gas pilot light. This can help save money on consuming natural gas and various other fuels used for furnaces. A gas pilot light for stoves and water heaters are great to have because it keeps them in working order even if the electricity was to go out. A lot of appliances have moved away from flames and use an electric pilot light instead. An appliance using an electric pilot light might still be able to be lit should the power go out but it's not something that is advised.

Should the flame go out, appliances tend to have safety features that also stops the natural gas flow. Equipped with a thermocouple, it senses when the flame is out and takes necessary actions and automatically shuts off a valve, even with no electricity. If this didn't happen, the home or room could be filled with gas which could cause an explosion or even suffocate anyone in the home. The following is a general procedure in relighting a pilot light:

Typically there is a gas valve that has pilot off and on settings in the assembly and you'll need to first locate this. The valve should be turned off and kept off for three minutes. The valve should then be switched to the pilot setting. A lit match should be held to the pilot opening while the reset button located on the control panel is pushed. The button should continue to be depressed until the flame starts to burn brightly. The valve should then be set to the on position. If the flame will not stay lit, there may be a clog in the opening. Turn the valve off and use a fine piece of wire to clean it out. If it will not stay lit after multiple attempts, it's possible that the thermocouple is faulty. In this case, you will likely need to seek professional help.

  • Conventional Furnaces – Here you can see a demonstration as to how conventional furnaces work.
  • Gas Safety – Read about natural gas safety and what you should do if there is a leak.
  • Instruction Manual PDF – This is an instruction manual for gas conventional oven ranges. Use this as a guide to learn more about relighting pilot lights.
  • Furnaces – Here you can learn how much money can be saved by switching to energy-efficient furnaces and whether it's good or not to turn off the pilot light during the summer months.
  • 60 Ways PDF – This resource offers 60 energy and money-saving tips for your home.

Some furnaces use gas pilot lights and some furnaces use electrical systems to ignite them. In electrical systems, there are no pilot lights. Electrical elements are used to heat up and ignite the burners instead. Should an electric pilot light go out, you will need to hire a professional to relight it.

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