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What To Do When Your Gas Furnace Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Posted: October 3, 2016

Freezing woman adjusting thermostat

Posted: October 3, 2016

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night wondering why your house was so cold? Perhaps you just got home from work to a home with no heat and went straight to the thermostat. You immediately push the button to increase the temperature and that’s when you know something is wrong. Your temperature was already supposed to be at 75 degrees and it feels like 40 or 50 degrees inside. So you head down to the gas furnace to see what’s going on. The most common reason why a gas furnace may suddenly stop working is because the pilot light has gone out.

Why Did My Pilot Light Go Out?

It is most common for a pilot light to go out in older gas furnaces and if you have an older furnace there’s a good chance it’s the reason why your heat has suddenly stopped working. This can happen for many reasons and the most common causes include:

  • A Weak Burning Flame – if the color of your pilot light flame is not a bright blue color, most notably (yellowish in color), then there is something that’s causing your pilot light to burn at an inconsistent or inefficient rate. When this happens your furnace is programmed to shut off the gas valve, causing your pilot light to shut off.
  • The Buildup of Dirt or Debris Around The Pilot Light – Over the years it’s easy for dust, debris, and dirt to build up on the inside of the intake valve where the pilot light resides. This makes it difficult for the flame to breath and as a result causes the pilot light to go out suddenly. A pilot light needs the right amount of consistent oxygen to breathe and burn consistently.
  • A Broken or Damaged Thermocouple – In this instance there is something wrong with the equipment and a technician would be required to replace or repair the thermocouple in order for your pilot light to stay lit again. If your pilot light continues to go out on a weekly basis, and you have exhausted all other possible causes, give Wilson Oil and Propane a call and we will have a technician sent to your home right away.
  • A Strong Draft or Wind – this is perhaps the most common reason for a pilot light to go out and one that’s easily fixable which you can do yourself most of the time.

How Do I Re-Light My Gas Furnace Pilot Light?

First, check to see if there are specific directions printed on the exterior of your gas furnace. Most furnaces have step by step directions printed directly on the outside of the tank or housing to help you lighting your pilot light when it has gone out.

Important (it’s very important to cross check the following instructions with any directions that are printed on your equipment. Always follow your equipment instructions first)

Step 1: Find the gas valve that has the on/off and pilot setting printed on it. It’s located within the pilot light assembly.

Step 2: You need to first make sure you turn the valve to the OFF position and wait at least 3 minutes before going on to the next step.

Step 3: Turn the valve to the PILOT setting and hold a lighted match right next to the opening of the pilot light. (do not stick the match inside the opening; hold the lit match about 1-3 inches away from the opening)

While you are holding the lit match, locate and push the reset button on the pilot control panel. Make sure you press the button and keep it pressed until you see the pilot light up. As soon as the light is back, set the valve to the ON position.

Step 4: If the pilot light will not stay on there is a good chance there is some dirt or debris that’s causing a clog near the opening. You can use a piece of wire or a coat hangar to gently remove any dirt or debris that has built up around the pilot light opening.

If your pilot light still won’t stay on after numerous attempts, give Wilson Oil and Propane a call and we will send a technician out to your home right away. You may have a faulty thermocouple that needs to be replaced or repaired in order to restore heat to your home.