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Dos and Don’ts of Lighting Your Water Heater

Pilot Problems With A Water Heater

A gas heater that warms up water needs a pilot light to light up the main burner, which then heats up the water to bring hot water to the home. Although an electric heater works differently and without a pilot, those San Francisco homes with a gas heater must take notice if the pilot light goes out.

There are a couple ways to learn that the pilot light has gone out, and one way is by seeing the light go out or by only having cold water in the home, which is a telltale sign of an outed pilot light. In many cases, the pilot light can be relit fairly quickly and easily, but that’s if there isn’t a problem with the pilot itself, with the thermocouple, with the gas supply, or with the water heater. Since there can be several reasons for an outed pilot, it’s best to get the services of a plumber to determine the reason why the pilot has gone out as well as to fix any problems with the heater and relight the pilot.

Take Safety Precautions First

Those relighting the pilot need to take safety as the first precaution, especially since a gas heater is not like an electric heater. Gas heaters are run by gas, and the gas is extremely flammable. If there happens to be any gas leaking in the room because the thermocouple hasn’t cut off the gas supply, then it presents a situation where an explosion can occur. More than likely, gas will be detected as soon as a person walks into the room if it’s been leaking. This tends to be a rare case, but it does happen, especially if the thermocouple is not working right.

There also could be a gas supply problem that may start with the company supplying the gas. There may be low gas pressure, which also might not be a problem for the outed pilot, but it still can cause leaking issues if there are other problems with the heater that have gone undetected.

Always smell for gas and any leaks before starting the process of relighting the pilot, and make sure the gas valve is turned to the “off” position whether there is a gas leak or not. Any gas leak that’s detected should be reported immediately to the gas supplier, and if necessary, evacuate the home of all people and pets for safety reasons.

Steps To Getting The Pilot Relit

After doing the necessary checks around the water heater for the smell of gas, make sure the gas valve has been turned off, and allow at least a 10 minute period before doing anything else. Any gas fumes that are in the air should clear up after 10 minutes, which gives the person a safe and clear way to relight the pilot without gas lingering in the air. The gas valve is located on the front of a box-shaped stand that is on the outer portion of the heater. Below the gas valve should be the temperature gauge, and this should be turned all the way down to the lowest setting available.

On some heaters, there is a regulator valve, and it should be close to the gas and temperature valves, but it may be on top of the box that contains the other two valves. The access panel for the pilot must be opened and one should search for any excess debris or dust that may be surrounding the pilot. If it’s an older heater, then the pilot is accessed through a panel that can be opened and closed, and the heater must be relit manually.

This type of heater requires fire to be put to the pilot in order to get it to relight. Make sure the pilot is clean because dust and dirt can easily gather around the pilot, which may easily cause it not to relight. Debris can also clog up the pilot, which may be a direct reason why the pilot went out.

Those that have a new type of heater should have a pilot that can be relit without the use of fire, and pushing the ignition to light the pilot should be enough to get it going properly again. The newer model heaters will have the pilot behind glass, which is a great way to keep it safe from children who may happen to wander into the room where the heater is, since it is unlikely that they will get burned.

The access panel that contains the pilot should never be left open after the pilot is lit, and this is not only for safety reasons but to keep the pilot from being disturbed, which will then disrupt the supply of hot water in the home.

Observe any instructions that are located on the heater, which may be located in a door panel on the heater. The instructions provide a step-by-step guide on how to relight the pilot, which is necessary, even for a seasoned plumber because it’s specifically made for that particular heater. Since many model heaters exist, the instructions can be very helpful. Those that have to relight the pilot through the access panel will need a wand lighter, and it should never be relit with matches or any type of lighter other than a wand lighter.

Turn the gas valve over to the “pilot” setting, and in some gas heaters it’s possible to push down this valve to begin feeding gas to the pilot, but in other heaters, it’s necessary to use the regulator valve to begin feeding gas to the pilot. While pushing down either the regulator valve or the gas valve, hold onto it for a full minute, and in that time, light the pilot. After a minute, the button or valve can be released, and the pilot should be able to stay lit.

If the pilot is continuing to go out, then it may not have been cleaned properly or may be clogged by something within the access panel.

It’s also a good idea to contact the gas company to see if the supply has been disrupted, or simply check other gas appliances in the San Francisco home to see if they are working properly. Once the pilot is relit, then close the access panel and turn the gas valve on, so the main burner will be relit. The temperature for the heater should be turned up, preferably to 120°F.

Don’t Forget Maintenance And Water Heater Repair

Many don’t find out that there’s a problem with their heater until they have no warm water, or there are other problems. There is very little room for error with a gas heater, so it’s always best to get maintenance and water heater repair as soon as it’s needed. Maintenance on any heater, whether it’s electric or gas should be done every year. If it’s determined that repair is needed, then get a plumber out to the home as quickly as possible, so your hot water supply isn’t disrupted for too long.

Get high-quality water heater repair from Magic Plumbing in San Francisco, CA at (415) 441-2255.

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