How to Light Your Water Heater


Of all the Ruston home repairs you may come across lighting your water heater pilot light is probably one of the easiest to perform. That does not mean that you don't need to be cautious.

Water Heater repair may require professional service. Several factors must be considered to ensure you are following the correct procedure.

Why Pilots Go Out

  • The pilot is what ignites the flame that causes water to warm in the tank. Ordinarily, the pilot does not present any problems. But occasionally you will find yourself with no hot water. There are several reasons why the pilot light would go out.
  • Bad Thermocouple. The thermocouple is a small tube connected to the pilot light. The tube extends close to the flame of the pilot. It senses when the pilot light is actually lit and when it isn't. If it is not lit, the water heater will turn off.
  • Dirt. Over timedirt can build up on the pilot light, thermocouple, and the valves. This dirt can interfere with the sensors and cause your pilot to go out. The easiest way to fix this is simply to look and see if the component parts look dirty. If they do, gently try to clean them with a soft brush.
  • Inadequate Gas Supply. Without gas the pilot light will not create a spark. Check the gas supply line to ensure it is connected properly. If it is appears there is a problem contact your gas company immediately

Lighting a Gas Pilot

Water heaters older than 8 years require manually lighting the pilot with a flame. If your Ruston heater is newer than this, it should be equipped with an igniter, similar to what is found on a gas grill.

Newer Models

Lighting a newer model is relatively easy. Simply turn the temperature control to the lowest setting. Move the gas valve to 'PILOT' and press down on the pilot button down and hold it. If your tank has a sight glass look through it as you press the spark generator. Press the spark generator down until you hear a click.

You should hear a spark and then the pilot should light. Continue to hold the Pilot button down for another 20-30 seconds. Turn the gas valve to the 'ON' position. Turn the temperature control to the desired setting. The water heater should be operating.

Older Models

The older model has to be lit with an open flame which many people find unnerving. If this describes you, then by all means contact you gas company. They will be happy to come out and do it for you.

Locate the gas regulator valve which is near where the gas line enters the tank. This regulates the gas going to the gas burner that is under the tank. Turn the gas valve to 'OFF' and wait at least 5 minutes. Turn the gas valve to 'PILOT'. Press down and hold down the gas valve. You will hear a click as the pilot ignites.

On some units, there is a button separate from the gas valve which must be pressed. This button is labeled something similar to 'IGNITION'. Press this button until you hear the click of the pilot.

If your Ruston home tank is a manual lighting unit, use a long lighter to ignite the pilot. Continue to hold the gas valve down for a minute. Slowly let up on the valve. The pilot should continue to be lit. If not, repeat the process. Turn the gas valve to 'ON'.

Electric Water Heaters

To be clear, electric units do not have pilot lights. If you have no hot water with an electric unit it may be faulty electrical components. Check the breaker box. If all breakers are intact, turn off the breaker which controls the water tank. Locate and remove a panel on the top side of the tank. Look for a red button. Press the button until you hear a click. This in effect, resets the unit.

Replace the panel and turn the breaker back on. The problem should be resolved. If not, the heating element probably needs to be replaced.

If the fuse keeps blowing, you must contact an electrician immediately. Another problem may be a faulty thermostat, or heating coil. Both of these require a professional to fix.

When to Call an Expert

Any time you are around a gas appliance and you smell a gas odor turn off the gas valve. Open windows, if possible. Do not turn any lights on, leave the premises. Call for repairs as soon as possible.

Electric units may have parts that need to be repaired. Care must be taken to avoid damage to the heating element.

When looking for a qualified professional for help with water heater repair in your Ruston, LA home, call Mark Johnson Plumbing at (318) 257-6167.