Every homeowner or renter has experienced the inconvenience and potential crisis of household malfunctions – a leaky faucet, a malfunctioning thermostat, or a squeaky hinge. But among these, few are as stressful or perplexing as a water heater’s pilot light that refuses to remain lit. In the frigid months of winter, this issue can send icy shivers down our spines at the mere anticipation of a cold shower.

But why does this happen, and more importantly, what can you do about it? At Dayton Plumbing Services, we have the dedicated expertise and experience to guide you through any aquatic predicament you may encounter, including stubborn pilot lights.

Quick Summary

A pilot light that won’t stay lit on your water heater can be due to issues like a faulty thermocouple, a dirty pilot tube, or a malfunctioning gas regulator. Fixing this can involve cleaning, replacing parts, or adjusting gas flow, tasks best performed by professional plumbers.

Understanding the role of the pilot light

The pilot light is a small flame that is used to ignite the burners in your water heater. Its key purpose is to provide the ignition flame for the gas coming from the heater’s main burner. When the water heater is turned on, the gas is guided over this pilot flame to ignite the main burner. Therefore, if the pilot light goes out, your water heater stops functioning, ceasing to deliver warm water to your home.

Moreover, the pilot light being off is not just an inconvenience – it can also signal a malfunctioning part inside the heater and even a potential safety risk. Consequently, understanding why your pilot light keeps going out and knowing how to handle it can save you from more serious issues.

Common reasons why your pilot light won’t stay lit

Understanding your pilot light’s behavior is the first step to diagnosing why it keeps going out. Whether your gas water heater is not working or you’re experiencing similar problems with your electric water heater, here are some of the most common causes:

  • Poor Thermocouple Condition: This part detects whether your pilot light is on. If not, it cuts off the gas supply to prevent problematic buildup. A faulty thermocouple might mistakenly read that the pilot light is off, leading to unlit conditions.
  • Pilot Tube Issues: Gas passes through this part to keep the pilot light burning. Blockages restrict gas flow, causing the light to go out.
  • Bent or Damaged Thermocouple: Damage to this part can cause it to read the pilot light incorrectly, leading to gas cutoff.
  • Malfunctioning Gas Regulator: This part controls the gas pressure in the appliance. Improper functioning can result in high-pressure levels causing the pilot light to blow out.

Resolving the problem

After identifying why your pilot light might not be staying lit, the next step is resolution. Potential solutions may vary depending on the cause of the problem.

For thermocouple-related issues, you might need a water heater repairs professional to inspect the device, determine if it’s broken or bent, and either fix or replace it. In case of a blocked pilot tube, a professional plumber can clean it out to ensure unrestricted gas flow. If the issue lies with the gas regulator, a specialist should handle this to avoid hazardous conditions arising from mishandling gas appliances.

Preventative measures and maintenance

To preempt pilot light issues, regular maintenance is your best bet. This includes having a professional inspect your water heater annually. Remember, preventing a problem is always cheaper and more convenient than having to solve it.

If you’re planning on investing in a new unit altogether, you might want to consider modern heaters that do without pilot lights – consider what size water heater you need and check out some of the best water heater brands for options.


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In conclusion, a water heater’s pilot light can be likened to the heart of the appliance – when it ceases its steady work, the whole system collapses. Understanding why your pilot light refuses to stay lit and taking appropriate measures is crucial for maintaining a warm water supply in your home and avoiding bigger, potentially dangerous issues.

Whether you’re struggling with a stubborn pilot light, considering a water heater replacement, or just want to maintain your current unit, rely on Dayton Plumbing Services. Contact us now for a quote and take one step towards stress-free home maintenance.

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